How can artificial intelligence improve competitiveness and reduce business risk?

Interos Inc, Fero Labs, KlearNow Corp and others are using artificial intelligence and other advanced tools to enable manufacturers and their customers to respond more quickly to supplier challenges, control raw material availability and navigate through the bureaucratic maquis of cross-border trade.

The market for new supply chain-focused technology services could be worth more than $20 billion a year over the next five years, analysts told Reuters. By 2025, more than 80% of new supply chain applications will use artificial intelligence and data science in some way, according to technology research firm Gartner. “The world has become too complex to try to manage some of these things on spreadsheets,” said Dwight Klappich, an analyst at Gartner.

Interos alerts companies to risks in real time

Interos, valued at more than $1 billion in its latest funding round, is one of the most successful companies in this nascent market. This Arlington, Virginia, US-based company claims to have mapped 400 million businesses worldwide and uses machine learning to monitor them on behalf of business clients, alerting them immediately to fires, d flooding, hacking or any other event likely to cause disruption. Before Russian tanks entered Ukraine in February, the company assessed the impact of an invasion. Interos says it has identified about 500 US companies with direct supplier relationships with companies in Ukraine. Further down the chain, Interos found that 20,000 US companies had ties to second-tier suppliers in Ukraine and 100,000 US companies had ties to third-tier suppliers.

Chief executive Jennifer Bisceglie said that after the war began, 700 companies asked Interos to help them assess their exposure to suppliers in Ukraine and Russia. She added that the company was developing a new product to simulate other hypothetical supply chain disruption scenarios, such as China’s invasion of Taiwan, so that customers understand their exposure to risk and know where to find other suppliers. Supply chain shocks are inevitable, Bisceglie told Reuters. “But I think we will improve to minimize these disruptions.”

US airline Delta Air Lines, which spends more than $7 billion a year on catering, uniforms and other goods in addition to its aircraft and fuel budget, is one of the companies using Interos to track its top 600 suppliers and 8,000 total suppliers. “We don’t expect to avoid the next crisis,” said Heather Ostis, Delta’s supply chain manager. “But we expect to be much more effective and efficient than our competitors in how we assess risk when this happens.”

KlearNow was able to save a British importer

Santa Clara, Calif.-based KlearNow sells a platform that automates tedious, paper-dominated customs clearance processes. It has been a lifeline for EED Foods, based in Doncaster, England, which imports Czech and Slovak sweets and smoked meats for expat customers in Britain. “Before Brexit, we were very afraid that we would have to close,” said Elena Ostrerova, EED’s purchasing manager. “But instead we are busy like never before.”

Ms Ostrerova says her business continues to grow at an annual rate of 40% after Brexit took effect in early 2020, partly because some competitors gave up rather than tackle the onerous new paperwork to import from the European Union. She explains that KlearNow’s customs clearance platform tracks her hundreds of shipments from Central Europe, tallying totals for thousands of items, correcting errors on everything from country of origin to gross weight. net, and providing an entry number – under which all details of a shipment are listed – to the company transporting it to Britain. “Human intervention is minimal,” says Ms. Ostrerova, which saves the company time and the cost of manual data entry.

Fero Labs brings flexibility and security of supply

Berk Birand, CEO of New York-based Fero Labs, said the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for manufacturers to adapt to changing suppliers so they can continue to make identical products regardless of the origin of the raw materials.

The startup’s platform uses machine learning to monitor and adapt to how raw materials from different suppliers affect product quality, whether it’s varying impurities in the steel or viscosity level of a surfactant, a key ingredient in shampoo. The system then communicates with plant engineers to adjust manufacturing processes to maintain product consistency.

Technology to improve competitiveness

Dave DeWalt, founder of venture capital firm NightDragon, which led Interos’ $100m Series C funding round last year, says regulators will increasingly focus on risk. to the supply chain. “If you have a supply chain issue that could cost you major shareholder value, you will also have major liability,” DeWalt said. “I believe that will happen in the near future.”

Large logistics companies are also deploying machine learning to boost their competitiveness. US truck fleet operator Ryder System uses real-time data from its fleet, as well as that of its customers and partners, to create algorithms to predict traffic patterns, truck availability and prices. Silicon Valley venture capital firm Autotech Ventures has invested in KlearNow and newtrul, which brings together data from transportation management systems in the highly fragmented U.S. trucking industry to predict price changes.

“Mapping your supply chain and interconnection at the individual part level is the holy grail,” said Autotech Partner Burak Cendek.

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