Supply chain management is always changing; however, the integration of AI is currently driving an unprecedented level of transformation across the sector. The entire field is shifting due to AI advancements. Recent disruptions, ranging from global health crises to geopolitical tensions, have again highlighted the need for more resilient, agile, and intelligent supply chain operations.

AI (particularly generative AI) offers unprecedented opportunities to optimise supply chain planning and management by automating routine tasks, enhancing decision-making, and delivering predictive capabilities​ also enhancing the creativity and influence of supply chain professionals.

The evolution of AI in supply chain planning

From the traditional models rooted in the Toyota Production System to the emergence of generative AI, the supply chain field has always been on a continuous journey of technological evolution. Generative AI, a technology unlike any before, is set to revolutionise supply chain operations. By automating repetitive manual tasks, allowing supply chain workers to focus on more important strategic work. This change suggests a future where supply chains work more ounder their own devices and where taking early, informed actions becomes usual, greatly improving how operations work and the experiences of customers. The key question is, will having a human in the loop provide additional value and risk assurance?

The case for autonomous planning

Despite the investments in supply chain technologies over the decades, , many organisations still face issues with isolated operations and disjointed systems. Autonomous planning emerges as part of the solution, offering a continuous, closed-loop approach that optimises real-time sales and operations planning (S&OP) processes. This model minimises the need for human intervention, utilises big data, and incorporates advanced analytics throughout the supply chain, which leads to better efficiency in unpredictable environments. However, it’s important to remember that supply chains fundamentally rely on people and relationships. We should not overlook the effort required to adapt to and adopt this new autonomous planning process.

Unlocking the full potential of AI in supply chains

Current applications of AI in supply chains primarily focus on analytics and prediction, such as demand forecasting and production planning. Yet, its real potential lies in using AI to routinely make decisions based on recognising patterns in large datasets—a powerful tool that’s still largely underused. By incorporating data from across the entire business and beyond, AI systems can constantly learn and adapt from new information and results. This ongoing learning can greatly improve performance and help address long-standing issues such as falling service levels, less-than-ideal stock amounts, and labor-intensive processes.

Implementing AI-driven supply chain solutions

Such systems not only enhance overall supply chain performance but also help mitigate issues like skill shortages and high staff turnover by capturing and using organisational knowledge automatically. Moving towards autonomous supply chain planning requires simplifying processes, restructuring organisational frameworks, improving capabilities, and implementing advanced technological solutions.

AI adoption journey

We often talk about where we’re heading with supply chain planning, aiming for increasing degrees of autonomy. But what’s really exciting is the role of AI on this path. As we start using AI more, it will change the ways things are done as familiarity, confidence and adoption levels grow . Planners will begin to see their data wrangling and execution tasks decrease as the move into orchestration mode, overseeing the whole system and managing the AI to make improved decisions.

The integration of AI into supply chain planning that marks a major change towards more resilient, efficient, and intelligent operations. As companies navigate the complexities of modern supply chains, adopting AI-driven approaches will be crucial in achieving operational excellence and delivering superior customer value. The journey towards fully autonomous planning requires a comprehensive strategy that encompasses technology, organisational culture, and skill development, setting the stage for a future where supply chains are not just responsive but predictive and self-optimising.

Author: Eddie Groom

Helen Chiswell

Managing Principal

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