In the fast-paced world of digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful catalyst for change. Rusty Coleman, the Vice President of Digital Transformation at Surgere, shares his candid thoughts on AI, its pivotal role in the company's transformation goals, and its transformative impact on the supply chain industry.
1. Rusty's First Thoughts on AI
Rusty Coleman's initial thoughts on AI can be summarized in three key points:
- Innovation and Progress: AI is a driving force behind innovation and progress across numerous industries. It serves as a tool to develop new technologies and solve complex problems in healthcare, education, transportation, manufacturing, and beyond.
- Creativity and Imagination: AI isn't just a problem-solving tool; it's a wellspring of creativity and imagination. It's fostering the creation of new art forms, entertainment experiences, and deepening our understanding of the world around us.
- The Future: AI is set to become increasingly integral to our lives in the years to come. Rusty emphasizes the importance of responsible and ethical AI usage to ensure that it benefits humanity as a whole.
Rusty humorously notes that the three responses he provided were generated by asking AI for its opinion on itself, highlighting the evolving capabilities of AI technology.
He recognizes that AI toolsets have been available for a while but are now emerging as practical, everyday tools. Rusty personally employs various AI applications based on his needs, whether it's for internet research, content rewording, grammar checks, or even creating images based on specific criteria. He finds AI toolkits impressive but acknowledges their limitations, such as making erroneous assumptions based on flawed data.
Rusty emphasizes the need to use AI with a strong sense of common sense and to rely on the knowledge and experience of both individuals and teams to maximize the benefits of this technology.
2. Surgere's Digital Transformation Goals
Surgere has set three fundamental goals for its digital transformation journey in 2024:
- Technology Integration: Surgere aims to assist clients in finding the optimal combination of technology, hardware, media, and software integrations to address their unique business challenges. This approach enhances client efficiency, reduces operating costs, and increases digital maturity simultaneously.
- Effective Governance: An often overlooked but critical aspect of digitization is governance. Surgere underscores the importance of a hierarchical governance structure that ensures effective communication between executives and the teams responsible for transformation. Clear lines of communication are essential for conveying changing business needs, successes, failures, and roadblocks requiring upper management intervention, especially as digital transformation extends across functional departments, third-party systems, and global sectors.
- Organizational Change Management: Training, human resources (HR), and the transformation point within the organization must become the champions and advocates for change. HR should collaborate closely with the governance team to turn the transformation into an event, making technology adoption a positive experience for the workforce. Comprehensive training planning, recording, and execution are essential to equip the next generation of users with the skills needed to sustain the initial rollout. The ultimate goal is widespread adoption, ensuring that the technology investment leads to lasting value realization.
These three objectives center around generating the right technology stack, establishing an effective governance team and communication plan, and preparing the organization for successful adoption of change.
3. AI's Disruptive Impact on the Supply Chain
Rusty Coleman characterizes artificial intelligence and machine learning as true disruptors rather than mere instruments of change. He humorously likens them to a train, emphasizing that the "red light in the tunnel" signifies the train has already left, indicating the substantial impact AI and ML are making today.
AI's transformative potential in the supply chain is profound:
- Demand Forecasting: AI can enhance demand forecasting accuracy, helping businesses avoid stockouts and overstock situations.
- Inventory Optimization: AI can optimize inventory levels, leading to cost reduction and improved customer service.
- Route Planning: AI can streamline transportation route and schedule planning, reducing costs and enhancing delivery times.
- Automation: Tasks like order picking and packing can be automated with AI, enhancing efficiency and cutting costs.
- Quality Inspection: AI excels at inspecting products for defects more accurately and efficiently than traditional inspectors.
Furthermore, Rusty highlights a personal frustration—the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model—where decisions driven solely by cost considerations often lead to problems like parts shortages or quality issues. AI's ability to identify and mitigate supply chain risks, such as transportation or production disruptions, can address these issues.
In conclusion, Rusty Coleman asserts that AI's impact on the supply chain is not a matter of "if" but "when." It continues to reshape the entire end-to-end supply chain landscape, promising increased efficiency, reliability, and innovation for the future.