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Why This CTO Calls AI a “North Star” for Supply Chain Customers

For many retail supply chain customers, artificial intelligence (AI) is the North Star that guides them along the path toward making better use of the data at their disposal, according to Raj Patel, co-founder and chief technology officer of supply chain collaboration platform Slync.

It’s no secret that many companies in the retail supply chain struggle with using fragmented and outmoded systems to manage even the most basic tasks. So much data is locked away in siloed software, on-premise databases and even cumbersome tools like Excel spreadsheets and email. For them, an integrated system that marries all of their data, including email, can provide meaningful insights, enhance team supplier communications, and offer a system of record and entry-level analytics. From there, automating workflows and business engines is the next step because doing so can “drive better business outcomes,” Patel told Sourcing Journal.

Patel said Slync is particularly focused on helping supply chain customers better predict exceptions to their processes. Damaged goods, missing documents and hundreds of other variables can be highly disruptive to global supply chains. There’s a critical opportunity to leverage historical data to predict and manage outcomes while minimizing fallout. Looking back at what happened in the aftermath of geopolitical disturbances or severe weather events can help supply chain stakeholders better prepare for future instances. Being able to proactively identify exceptions before they occur is challenging mainly because it requires having an arsenal of data and “good mapping of your supply chain,” Patel noted.

Retailers are also looking to AI to help them solve their Big Data problem and make this wealth of information more “consumable,” Patel said. In designing Slyc, Patel said the goal was not to change how clients worked but to make a platform that’s complementary to their current processes, which often include email and spreadsheets. Slync brings email into its platform and can start visualizing information drawing from subject lines and key search words in email body copy.

Slync is investing in building workflow engines so that clients can create their own automated workflows to solve common problems and protect compliance standards, Patel noted. Most supply chain leaders pull data from a common set of sources but struggle to create focused application experiences to tackle problems in retail or aid customer service. “I think we created a Swiss Army knife in the supply chain,” Patel concluded.