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In the second part of a series on disruptive technologies, Charlie Bradshaw, founder and CEO of Matrix, discusses the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to shake up the procurement landscape.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is building up a head of steam. The world caught a first glimpse of its potential when IBM's Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer, beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Fast forward 20 years and Google DeepMind has developed AlphaGo. Having never played the board game Go before, this ‘machine learning' AI went onto beat the international champion four times out of five.
Most futurists predicted that this level of AI would not arrive until the mid-2020's, so the tech community was genuinely stunned by this level of progression in such a short space of time.
AI has gone from using rules fed to it by humans to acquiring an innate ability to write and correct its own code. Bloomberg recently mapped out the current Machine Intelligence ecosystem, which illustrates just how much this super-intelligent software is already a part of our daily lives both at home and at work.
Like it or not, all businesses are becoming software companies. Data is now a core asset that if used effectively, will give companies the ability to automate the process of designing, buying and producing goods.
Given AI's evident ability to overcome human performance flaws, it's not hard to see its potential across different areas. Most of all it has genuine commercial value.
So, how will AI change the procurement and supply chain universe?
In short, AI will disrupt every single facet. Machine learning AI will provide predictive analytics that are far superior to anything the human brain can offer, and robots will become ubiquitous in every manufacturing process, no matter how large or small the operation.
Small batch production as well as mass personalisation and customisation will become the norm, all driven by AI, 3D printing and robotics.
Just think of a procurement industry version of AlphaGo; what would it look like? It would design prototypes through learnt intuition; bots trawling the Internet, picking up on consumer behaviour, and spinning their findings into commercial silk.
We will see 10x, possibly 100x improvements in speed and efficiency. In China, we're already seeing robotics planted into the foundations of factories. Ying Ao, a Chinese manufacturer of sinks destined for the kitchens of Europe and the US, has replaced 140 of its workers with nine robots. The initial investment is big but the returns are expected to be even greater in the long-run.
Imagine the procurement role when you have a combination of AI, 3D printers and drone technology. Imagine the efficiencies. Not only will this slash time and expenditure, it will boost sustainable operations.
The future is closer than you think and so now's the time to plan for the AI revolution.
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.
If you are an exponential thinker and keen to learn more about the disruptive technology coming to your industry soon, then check out Singularity University's blog and executive programmes.