How Unilever, Siemens, Maersk, and other big companies are using AI to negotiate contracts, find new suppliers, and navigate other complex supply chain issues

How Unilever, Siemens, Maersk, and other big companies are using AI to negotiate contracts, find new suppliers, and navigate other complex supply chain issues

In an era marked by increasing geopolitical tensions and mounting pressures to ensure ethical supply chains, major global corporations are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate the complexities of their supply networks. Giants such as Unilever, Siemens, and Maersk are leveraging AI, particularly the emerging technology of generative AI, to streamline various aspects of supply chain management, from negotiating contracts to identifying potential links to environmental and human rights issues.

While AI has been a part of supply chain management for some time, the advent of generative AI technology is opening up new avenues for automation and efficiency. Generative AI, which includes capabilities like building chatbots and creating software that generates responses based on human prompts, is offering a more sophisticated and dynamic approach to managing intricate supply networks.

The disruptions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating geopolitical tensions have underscored the need for companies to closely monitor their suppliers and customers. New supply chain laws, such as those in Germany requiring companies to monitor environmental and human rights concerns in their supply chains, have also prompted greater interest and investment in AI-driven supply chain management.

Generative AI is making a significant impact. Maersk’s Chief Technology Officer, Navneet Kapoor, highlighted how generative AI has ushered in dramatic changes, enabling the creation of chatbots and software that can swiftly respond to various demands.

A San Francisco-based startup called Pactum has emerged as a key player in this field. Pactum’s ChatGPT-like bot has been instrumental in negotiating contracts for major corporations like Maersk, Walmart, and Wesco. With disruptions becoming commonplace, these corporations are turning to Pactum’s chatbot to efficiently reach out to suppliers, saving valuable time and resources.

Siemens, a German industrial conglomerate, has also embraced AI in its supply chain management efforts. The company employs Scoutbee, a Berlin startup, to identify alternative suppliers and vulnerabilities in its supply chain. Scoutbee’s chatbot assists Siemens in identifying new suppliers, especially during the lockdowns caused by the pandemic.

Another startup, Altana, based in New York, is using AI to build an extensive map connecting 500 million companies globally. This map helps customers trace products back to their origins, enabling them to ensure ethical sourcing and uncover any potential issues.

A recent survey revealed that up to 96% of supply chain professionals plan to incorporate AI technology into their operations, though only 14% are currently using it. While AI adoption holds the promise of increased efficiency, there are concerns about potential job cuts resulting from its implementation.

As the world of supply chain management undergoes a profound transformation, the integration of generative AI is offering a glimpse into the future of efficient and ethical supply networks for multinational corporations.

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