If we want the era of siloed supply chains to end, we need to change how we view AI

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From the outside, siloed supply chains seem like they would be a pretty uncommon issue.

To businesses and consumers, they place an order, receive a couple of email updates and a tracking link, and within a few days, their product arrives at the doorstep.

To many leaders within the organisation, they see consistent online traffic and sales figures, 5-star customer reviews, and long-term clients happy with their service.

To play devil’s advocate, it’s understandable. The growth of global trade across the past several decades has increased the number, capabilities and efficiencies of routes and trading partners; if you’re not being impacted by disruptions, there’s no reason to think there are any in the first place.

But the reality is a lot less simple and a lot more behind-closed-doors than that. Siloed supply chains are one of the most prevalent issues for organisations, and are resulting in huge annual losses. Losses that are having a ripple effect across entire operations.

The drain on businesses is costing them – big time. Here’s the catch: the solution’s at our fingertips. But we need to shift how we think about and use AI.

Falsely subtle siloes, drastic impact

Siloed supply chains are enough to make even the calmest of Procurement Directors sweat. And with good reason.

The issue can cost businesses hundreds of hours in wasted time every month, negatively impact partnerships and vendor relations, cause cracks in customer loyalty, place undue risk to overseas labour, and to state the obvious, jeopardise a company’s bottom line.

Saying that’s the start and the end of the effects would be a disservice to just how detrimental the issue can be. But combine these factors and you have a clear picture and an even clearer message: siloes are making businesses susceptible to risk.

To quash any misconceptions, supply chain visibility is impacting the vast proportion of organisations. Around 69% of companies report having limited visibility of their entire chain, and these pockets of operational unknowns are one of the top concerns keeping Chief Procurement Officers awake at night.

Part of the issue around siloes is that, to someone looking at them every day, they can falsely appear subtle. It’s a few hours a week sending out RFQs or communicating between several collaborators. Swallowing the cost of invoice discrepancies or goods damages.

Because visibility is notoriously difficult to attain for most businesses, mass problem-solving and crisis management has become the norm for leads and managers. It’s not necessarily glaringly obvious until the CFO asks for your department’s quarterly report, and suddenly those “subtle siloes” come under heat.

A hundred different priorities, but one shared goal

So, why the siloes in the first place? There’s no one single reason.

The sector’s historically held its cards close to its chest, and inter-partnership information sharing isn’t an industry standard. The sheer number of owners on a chain increases the chance of error including duplicated work – or tasks getting missed entirely.

Factor in trying to maintain communication across different regions, sectors, operations and even cultures, and you have a chain that can easily become convoluted.

Despite all of this, leaders may not realise how far the impact can be felt, or just how revolutionising the solution would be.

At top level, Executives may not see so-called “everyday” supply chain disruptions as a big picture issue, particularly if they’ve been normalised in a business structure. Like I said: if the figures are up and the customers are happy, the rest is unavoidable loss within a profit margin, right?

Key decision-makers (your CTO or IT & Operations Director) who are aware of the lack of visibility, may look at AI-led solutions and stop dead in the tracks of ROI, readiness and adoption uncertainties. “New process” is a daunting message to relay, and an Ops Director will avoid rocking the boat if they don’t think they can prove immediate value.

And for many on-the-ground supply chain managers, the idea of software adoption can be as frustrating as it can be threatening. Either they’ll be required to spend hours connecting systems, integrating processes or troubleshooting with new users. Or worse, the platform will supersede their positions and make their roles obsolete.

Solving the issue requires tackling these siloes first, and reforming how AI is perceived.

Embracing AI as an enabler – not a replacer

The idea that AI will replace jobs in all industries – not just supply chain – is everywhere.

 The reality is, the true impact of these roles is already being superseded by inefficiencies. The burden of identifying and implementing solutions – not to mention absorbing the impact – often falls on one department. Doing so quickly, quietly, and without much credit.

AI needs to be viewed in a wider context. In some cases, the tech will streamline outdated roles, empowering us to accomplish much more, in less time, and reach farther than ever before. It can bring managers and leads’ real value to the forefront.

To make it happen, AI-driven platforms need to reduce admin-heavy tasks and troubleshooting, creating opportunities for managers and leads to build productivity, streamline operations, boost the overall commercial value of the supply chain and so on.

Beebolt was built on the principle that a more equipped supply team meant a more empowered supply team. And a stronger, more viable chain. We use AI to integrate the solution with existing workflows, centralise collaboration, and create greater connectivity across your organisation. Generating near-immediate adoption and ROI, and most importantly, prioritising the time and skillsets of your team.

A siloed supply chain is usually a symptom of a wider issue, and that issue is frequently how we view teams, their time, and their worth. AI sets the tone for a better way of working.

Think of it this way: J.A.R.V.I.S. didn’t take Iron Man’s job.