AI Applications In The Global Supply Chain

The machines, robots, IIoT devices, and applications used in the global supply chain create a deluge of structured and unstructured data. This has led to the emergence of advanced artificial intelligence- (AI) and machine learning-based solutions, designed to make sense of all this information and transform it into actionable insights for industry. AI-powered supply chain technologies bring order to the chaos of all this data. 

The benefits of applying AI to complex operational data are clear: enhanced visibility into the supply chain, faster decision-making, reduced cycle times, predictive analysis of big data, improved quality, productivity and throughput, greater supply chain resilience, and the ability to continuously tweak and improve your processes based on real-time insights into system performance.

AI also empowers companies to make intelligent predictions about items as diverse as demand for a particular product or when to replenish stocks of raw materials used in manufacturing processes. Furthermore, AI can be used to greatly reduce the amount of time supply chain professionals have to spend gathering data from different systems and then using business intelligence tools and spreadsheets to develop strategies.

A report from market analysts McKinsey found that 61% of executives report decreased costs and 53% report increased revenues as a direct result of introducing AI into their supply chains, with lowered inventory-carrying costs, inventory reductions, and reduced transportation and labor costs providing the biggest savings.

No surprise then that the supply chain sector is adopting AI- and machine learning-based technologies at an increasing rate. The global AI in supply chain market is expected to reach USD10,110.2 million by 2025, up from USD 527.5 million in 2017, at a CAGR of 45.55%, according to research from Markets & Markets. 

The emergence of AI-powered solutions for supply chains couldn’t come at a more crucial time, with supply chains still suffering the effects of pandemic-related restrictions and trying to cope with increasing supply chain uncertainty. However, AI in the supply chain remains at the beginning of Gartner’s 2020 Hype Cycle, meaning that it could be another decade before the technology reaches full maturity.

A3 members are leading the way in the development of ingenious AI and machine learning-based solutions for the global supply chains of today and tomorrow. Let’s look at just a few examples of their exciting work.

California-based Flexible Vision, for example, has developed an AI, machine learning-powered hardware and software platform that’s designed to help solve difficult inspection tasks, such as correctly identifying items to be picked by a robot or identifying product defects. Proving that deploying AI-powered solutions doesn’t necessarily require advanced technological know-how, Flexible Vision can be operated by any technician, regardless of their skill level. In the video below, the system, which is compatible multiple camera and lens setups, can be shown incorporated into an automated vision inspection cell.

Geek+ is a global logistics technology company that supplies advanced robots –including autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated forklifts, and its RoboShuttle tote-to-person picking solution-- and AI-based systems to warehouse and factory facilities. In 2020, Geek+ and eStore Logistics implemented the largest rollout of AMRs in Australian history.

The company’s AI-powered Smart Warehouse product provides a comprehensive, real-time view of warehouse operations throughout the entire process. For example, when goods enter the logistics center, they immediately undergo data monitoring and analysis. This information is compared against historical inventory data to determine the optimal storage method and location and the system chooses which robots are to be used where and at what precise time. Smart Warehouse also handles assigning tasks to human workers, ensuring optimized collaboration between humans and machines throughout the facility. Find out more about the Smart Warehouse system in the video below.

RIOS Intelligent Machines specializes in the development of dextrous, AI-powered robots and work cells designed to automate supply chain and logistics operations. RIOS has developed a haptic intelligence platform for robots that enables its robots to handle challenging tasks that traditionally require human-level-dexterity and involve manipulating thousands of SKUs.

RIOS’ platform includes an end-effector fitted with thousands of miniaturized sensors that feed information to machine learning algorithms, producing results that can be used to optimize grasp, map surface topography, detect slips, and distinguish between different objects, even in cluttered environments. The system also uses AI for vision perception, tactile perception, and real-time robot motion planning and control.

In the video below a RIOS robotic work cell can be seen working with existing packaging equipment on an end-of-line packaging application.

Vancouver-based Apera AI’s specializes in robotic vision – a field that’s rtipe for AI and machine learning deployments due to the complexity of the tasks involved. Compatible with a wide range of leading industrial robot brands, the company’s 4D Vision system is designed to provide industrial robots with human-like vision, enabling new and more complex applications and adding advanced object recognition capabilities to the system.

Watch the system successfully support a fast-paced bin-picking application in the video below.

Learn more about the use of AI systems by visiting A3’s dedicated AI portal.