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  1. Supply chain
January 11, 2024

Half of leading supply chain organisations plan on using generative AI within a year

New research from Gartner finds that 14% are already weaving generative AI throughout their operations.

By Greg Noone

Half of leading supply chain companies plan to harness generative AI in their workflows, according to new research from Gartner. Its survey of 127 major supply chain companies conducted in November 2023 also found that 14% of respondents were currently implementing, or already had implemented, generative AI within their operations. Only 2% stated that they had no plans to harness the technology over the next 12 months. 

A photo of a container ship at sea, used to illustrate a story about the sector's embrace of generative AI.
A new survey from Gartner has revealed supply chain companies are raring to implement generative AI – with over half saying they’ll do so by 2025. (Photo by Studio concept/Shutterstock)

“CSCOs [chief supply chain officers] see GenAI as supportive of their broader digital transformation objectives,” said Gartner Supply Chain Practice distinguished vice-president Noha Tohamy. “Many supply chain leaders were already leveraging supply chain technologies and advanced analytics, and it’s clear from this data that the majority also see the value in GenAI to enhance productivity, improve business agility and reduce costs.”

Funding for generative AI projects within leading supply chain organisations also seems robust. Gartner’s research indicates that companies in the sector are willing to spend an average of 5.8% of their budgets on implementing the technology. Almost two-thirds of respondents, meanwhile, said that they were open to hiring dedicated staff to aid with the deployment of generative AI applications. Potential use cases could include staff assistance chatbots, code augmentation and summarised insights into KPIs, Gartner said. 

Supply chain interest in AI slowly growing

The research firm’s findings echo a string of announcements made by major supply chain organisations announcing a new-found embrace of generative AI. These include Siemens, Unilever and Pactum, according to the Financial Times. Indeed, the latter firm claimed to be using a generative AI chatbot to help negotiate supply chain agreements on behalf of almost a dozen Fortune 500 companies. “[With] one disruption after another these days, it takes humans too much time,” Pactum’s co-founder, Kasper Korjus, told the paper. “Walmart don’t have time to reach out to tens of thousands of suppliers.”

A recent interview between Flexport founder Ryan Petersen and The Verge’s Decoder’ podcast also highlighted how the industry is using AI to automate swathes of tasks across freight delivery. 

“What we’re finding is that because we’ve spent a decade breaking the work of freight forwarding – of moving a container around the world – into small, discrete, atomic tasks that have to be completed, those tasks become very susceptible to AI knocking it out,” said Petersen. “Whereas if you just told AI, “Hey, ship this container from Ho Chi Minh [City] to St. Louis,” it would just hallucinate some weird answer. But if you’re like, “Hey, move this data off this port terminal website into this database,” it does it instantly and accurately.”

Read more: Will technology avert the next global supply chain crisis?

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