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A discussion of what constitutes an “autonomous” supply chain, the functions that it controls, and how far it is from becoming a reality, with two executives from aThingz: Vijaya Neela, president and chief executive officer, and Kannan Ramachandran, chief artificial intelligence officer and chief commercial officer.
Key to creation of an autonomous supply chain is the formation of a digital twin of every aspect of the physical supply chain, says Ramachandran. It gives companies the ability to sense various events across the network, then respond to them with appropriate actions, such as the issuance of alerts, recommendations on potential cost savings and inventory levels, and initiation of workflows. An autonomous supply chain, he says, “is constantly learning.”
Planning is an essential element of the autonomous supply chain, says Neela. “If you do it right, everything falls into place. It gives you the rhythm of how things are going to be orchestrated.” Each step in the progress of products from the supplier to the plant and beyond needs to be tightly coordinated, so that overall productivity “is in perfect balance.”
Artificial intelligence plays a central role in ensuring data quality, the foundation of successful planning. Companies must have full confidence in their data in order to make crucial business decisions. Equally important, says Neela, is a focus on supply-chain resilience, the ability to withstand any disruptions in the flow of product to market. Supply chains need to keep tabs on elements such as supplier fill rates and potential carrier capacity shortages.
Ramachandran stresses the value of the digital twin, which allows supply chains to test various hypotheses in a virtual mode, before committing to a decision. This mirror of business processes must be able to draw on information from both inside and outside the organization, he says.
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