Supply Chain Pros: AI Needs People
October 14, 2020
released new research indicating that 82% of supply chain decision-makers have
been left frustrated by AI-powered systems and tools during the COVID-19 crisis.
Secondmind commissioned independent global research firm Censuswide to survey
over 500 supply chain planners and managers across Europe and the USA to learn
how AI was helping or hindering their decision-making.
The results, released in a new report, show
that despite the frustration, belief in AI’s potential is strong - 90% agree
that AI-powered tools and software will help them make better decisions by 2025
and over half (59%) strongly agree that AI will transform supply chains for the
better in the next five years.
The blockers to fulfilling AI’s potential
The managers surveyed cited a number of factors hindering the ability of AI
systems to deliver value, all of which fell into two categories:
Data: a lack of reliable data to feed into AI systems (37%), historic data
becoming ‘meaningless’ in times of unprecedented change (19%) and the need to
spend significantly more time on manually analysing and interpreting data (50%)
were concerns at a time when accuracy and speed were of the essence.
Organizational: a third of respondents (34%) said their leadership teams lack an
understanding of what is currently needed on the ground to make faster,
data-driven decisions. Furthermore, rigid processes and internal structures
prevented over two in five planners and managers from quickly responding to
changing market conditions (41%).
A longer road to resilience
The supply chain planners and managers surveyed believe that a third of their
time (on average 2.83 hours daily) is spent on manual tasks that could easily be
automated. As frustrations with current AI systems emerged during the pandemic,
half (50%) said they spent significantly more time manually analyzing and
interpreting data to assist strategic and operational decisions.
The decision-makers surveyed stated these data pain points are holding them
back from working on higher value initiatives that could contribute towards
building more resilient supply chains, such as:
Proactively preparing scenarios and plans for future unexpected ‘black swan’
Spending more time on proactive and in-depth planning for major events such as
Christmas and Black Friday (41%)
Conducting more in-depth analysis, using their experience and expertise (51%)
The power of human & AI collaboration
The majority of managers who use AI systems want their domain expertise to
factor into the decision-making process. Desirable capabilities for AI systems
included: the ability to modify AI-generated forecasts using the
decision-maker’s own judgement ( 53%), AI that can learn from humans when
historic data is unreliable (47%) and AI that could show what data or contextual
information that impacted a forecast (39%).
those who believed AI alone was not enough to inform effective decision-making,
the reasons cited were that human intuition cannot be replicated by a machine
(62%), there will always be some events that a machine can't predict (59%) and
expertise developed from years on the job is critical in decision-making (51%).
Vishal Chatrath, CEO and Co-Founder, Secondmind comments: “COVID-19 has been a
wake-up call for businesses operating in global supply chains as they prepare to
rapidly accelerate the implementation and deployment of AI in the coming years.
For AI to realise its potential, it will be critical for organisations to deploy
systems that can cope with sparse or incomplete data environments and promote
the effective collaboration between people and AI. Our report shows how much
people benefit from AI, but also how much AI needs people. A collaborative
approach to decision-making that combines the right skills and capabilities for
each task is essential, particularly when systems are disrupted during uncertain
times and unpredictable events.”
Data obtained with Censuswide between August-September 2020, surveying a total
of 506 supply chain managers in the UK, USA, Italy, Spain, Germany and France.