In times of economic uncertainty and disruption, technology can play a crucial role in rebuilding operations across the supply chain. It’s no surprise that global spending on artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to double over the next four years, growing from US$50.1 billion in 2020 to more than $110 billion in 2024 (IDC).
For supply chains still impacted by reduced staff and disrupted operations, creating robust business relationships and fostering a high degree of agility within operating models will help organisations survive in the face of significant disruption.
With communication between the procurement team and suppliers more important than ever, technology like AI, as well as audio and video solutions, can support business efficiencies, employee engagement and improve overall productivity.
Supply chain digitisation
Phase one of the pandemic saw supply chains racing to establish remote processes to keep goods and services moving. Border closures and office shutdowns created additional disruption for procurement professionals. Now the focus is on business continuity with some employees working from home, while others are slowly returning to the workplace.
While the supply chain industry hasn’t always been a quick adopter of new technology, COVID-19 has certainly accelerated digital transformation initiatives. For example, the Federal Budget included a $800 million package to improve access to digital services, with e-invoicing a key focus area across all levels of government.
Since lockdowns began, the industry has been forced to look at innovative ways to collaborate and operate in this ‘new normal’.
Enter collaboration technologies
Agile and flexible ways of working are key for businesses looking to manage remote workers, suppliers and ensure social distancing in the workplace. Therefore, digital solutions like webinars, webcams and screenshare has become increasingly important functions across the supply chain – particularly when coordinating with partners and third parties.
Moreover, employee engagement has become a key challenge during the pandemic, with workforces now dispersed across different locations. For organisations practising the hybrid work model, social distancing in the office is a top priority. Technology like 180° field-of-view cameras, for example Jabra’s Panacast, help support social distancing during in-person meetings while also promoting equal participation and inclusion for everyone involved. It does so by using integrated AI sensors, allowing companies to use data in real-time to see if their employees are collaborating in a COVID compliant way.
For example, companies can automate workflows through anonymous people-counting technology. By knowing how many people are present or if any person is present, a business can create software control signals which enable systems to automate room reservation and release, or autonomously turn off power consuming equipment when it’s not needed. The Wall Street Journal reported on a study in which 40 percent of employees said they waste 30 minutes per day looking for meeting spaces, and Gartner has estimated that employees spend 27 hours per year looking for spaces to meet. With so much potential to regain this lost time, self-improving collaboration tools offer enormous value for worker productivity and operational efficiency.
Increasing productivity through AI
Advanced capabilities, such as a tool to find and add whiteboards as a virtual video stream or algorithms for real-time people detection and counting, are introducing even greater potential for efficiency gains. Innovations in edge AI that make it more powerful and interconnected with cloud AI will unlock even greater potential. As these technologies evolve and become ubiquitous in enterprise and supply chain environments, organisations will undoubtedly uncover even greater benefits as they learn to more effectively harness endless streams of big data.
For procurement professionals across the supply chain, the right digital tools to communicate and collaborate will help continue operations in the current environment. Whether using webcams, phone calls, cameras or cloud sharing platforms, the industry must continue the digital transformation journey. By employing unified collaboration tools, procurement workers can work effectively with suppliers and improve operations into the future.