In 2012, Target sent out baby coupons to a teenager according to her buying history which predicted a pregnancy. At first, the teen’s father  complained to Target but after finding out his daughter was indeed carrying, he apologized to the manager. Not only can machine learning predicting customer habits and model demand, they can use data from throughout the supply chain to grab solutions faster.

Machine Learning and AI for Industry 4.0

  • Anticipating deliveries  before the purchase:
    Amazon’s “anticipatory shipping” AI is patented to get orders as close as possible to an address before the customer clicks buy. Forecasting demand is vital for Amazon to stay on top of the race for same-day and same-hour delivery.
  • Human and robots team up in warehouses:
    Warehouse staff can use voice guided picking to locate items with 99.9% efficiency, while WMS product managers use forecasting systems to guide their decision making.
  • The smart factory with a green strategy:
    Whirlpool is a major appliance manufacturing company using machine learning to monitor both ROI and sustainability performance. Three of their plants in Brazil have achieved their zero-waste-to-landfill goal and aims to spread this to facilities worldwide by 2020.

For additional reading on smart supply chains:
Architecting the 2025 Supply Chain – Accenture Strategy
The Digital Road to Industry 4.0 and Beyond – The MPI Group

Uber-minded: How the Sharing Economy is Helping Supply Chains

  • Hitchhiking empty farm trucks:
    Indigo AG Inc. is spearheading Transport, an app that connects shippers to carriers and uses trucks that would normally go home empty after delivering a load. According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of trucks travel empty on their return journey after making a delivery. With a shortage of truck drivers and increased costs, and this initiative is meeting that demand.
  • Rival companies share a ride and warehousing:
    Nestle and PepsiCo share warehouse capabilities including packing operations and distribution of food for retailers in Belgium and Luxemburg. Many competing FMCG manufacturers distribute at the same retailers and benefit from sharing warehousing and costs.

For more on responsible value chains:
Beyond Supply Chains: Empowering Responsible Value Chains – World Economic Forum

The Move to Mobile with Facebook’s Omar Zayat, Head of Industry, Enterprise eCommerce

“The transition to the mobile is going to be the most important transition in the next ten years” -Omar Zayat, Head of Industry, Enterprise eCommerce, Facebook

In Facebook’s research, 21% of shoppers are mobile first, and 26% research mobile first. The majority of online purchases are happening all day long because it can be done any time. When surveyed, half these customers believe the mobile experience for shopping is improving while almost a quarter say the in-store experience is getting harder. However, retail shopping is often a social activity and supply chains can benefit from treating physical stores as a place shoppers can try items before purchasing online.

What do you think about these topics? If you have ideas on what you’d like to see or a case study you’d like to share, let us know!