Tracking Inventory and Assets: How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) play a role in my business’ future?

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AI is growing as a key driver to gain your competitive edge.

Why is data-driven inventory management and asset tracking important?

Accurate and timely data collection informs strategic planning for business decisions that can be highly profitable in both time and resources. Whilst the integration and introduction of new systems is a long-term investment, the results can be immediate with providing transparency to how your business is really operating. Progression towards a leaner operation where you have a significantly greater understanding of stock will drive down all the risk factors mentioned above that force your overhead costs up.

Having to cancel an order placed by a customer due to improper count of product inventory levels or not knowing where the item exists in your supply chain can be severely damaging, not only to your bottom line but also your reputation. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to build trust in your clients that you can perform and meet their needs reliably. It only takes seconds to break that trust built over many years.    

A system that provides you with a high degree of certainty will permit you to make informed decisions and is able to provide sound advice to meet your customers' needs and expectations. The data that permits your ability to do this is fundamental to your competitive edge.

What role/s can technology play in inventory management and asset tracking?

Technology will play a vital role in inventory and asset management practices today and into our future. To avoid adoption is to severely limit growth opportunities and expose your business to competitive pressures. Technology implemented correctly can perform tasks and collect data reliably and consistently. In meeting the demands of business expansion or surge, technology supplementing your existing ‘human’ workforce is proving to be effective. The answer to expanding business capacity or meeting surge is not always solved by simply recruiting more people or the pursuit of 100% automation and redundancy of your workforce. Neither of these are the ‘go to’ state for most businesses as these forms of transition come with their own financial considerations that are the subject of a different forum.

AI goes beyond mere data capture and storage. It can reconcile and analyse data automatically via expenses, transactions, and reports that would otherwise require manual entry. Its ability to learn and understand patterns means it can notify the appropriate staff member of the data error and observe the action taken, even replicating that action taken to solve future problems. Put simply, effective technology adoption permits timely and informed decision making that will provide businesses with a competitive advantage.

In addition to your production and warehouse systems, drones and robots are known for their ability to supplement work performed by humans as they complete dirty, dull or dangerous tasks. This allows greater attention to be paid to other tasks of high value to the organisation and the worker, thereby improving productivity and job satisfaction.  

It is important to note that the implementation of technology solutions is not a ‘set and forget’ solution. Despite some common sales rhetoric, technology solutions need to be accompanied by a plan for their introduction, operation, and sustainment throughout their lifecycle. It is imperative to organisations that their staff are appropriately trained and skilled to adopt technology solutions and that there are adequate processes and plans in place to manage data from AI sources.  


What are the future trends of technology in tracking inventory and managing assets?

Unless you are a tier one global business, most company budgets will not accommodate an ‘Amazon-style’ model for implementation of projects. Good business operators and general managers are beginning to implement strong data management practices that are appropriate, scaled and offer training to meet their specific business needs. By standardising, amalgamating and verifying data sets across team silos and business functions, this allows for insights and forecasting to be highly accurate and relevant to the business. It can also mean that your selection of which AI to adopt as appropriate to your business needs will provide the return on investment (ROI), drive your business growth and provide the competitive advantage you desire.  

When it comes to the future of asset management, the focus is frequently on predictive analytics. This entails taking data on equipment status or facilities maintenance and assessing the likelihood of wear and tear. Intelligent systems process both current data (in real time) and historical records. Using millions of data points on a variety of operational parameters, and by correlating them with experience, AI can then make “informed guesses” about the need for proactive repairs and part replacements. This is vital in keeping equipment and facilities operational and avoiding expensive unplanned downtime.

In production, the key is to keep systems active and available and ensuring adequate raw materials are on hand. Provided the processes involved are standardised, then automation of the corresponding intralogistics is relatively simple. But what if there are unexpected changes to quantities, the product configuration, or deadlines? A smart system can rapidly detect deviations from the norm and can respond. This calls for information on as many parameters and from as many sources as possible: incoming orders, raw material availability, supplier workload, weather, data from warehouse sensors, images from cameras mounted to vehicles, and much more. Armed with this data, AI can react at the crucial time, and can modify and manage processes to, for example, ship products earlier or later, and in different quantities, than originally planned.

Practices and processes become especially tough when trying to accommodate the needs and “mood swings” of consumers. Being able to gauge probable demand in advance can be of significant advantage. Companies such as Amazon are attempting to do just that: harnessing AI to accelerate delivery and even predict consumer buying choices. Even before the order is placed, items that are likely to be wanted in the near future are shipped to a hub ready for ‘last-mile delivery’. In other words, the product is already on its way even while the customer’s finger is still hovering over the keyboard.

Who and where can you turn to for help in assessing inventory management and asset tracking capability with a view to implementing robust operations and management practices?

AML Advisory has over 20 years' experience assisting government and commercial clients to plan and implement reliable and relevant asset management practices. Don’t fall behind your competition and limit your company’s future growth and success: contact AML Advisory today to continue your curiosity with implementing technology that will assist your business. Fill out our contact form to speak to an experienced consultant today  or call us on (03) 8687 2174 to start your innovation and automation journey.

About the author

Alan Jones: Managing Director of AML Advisory
Alan Jones: Managing Director of AML Advisory

With over thirty five years of experience, Alan specialises in strategic and operational asset management including the implementation of material sustainment systems and processes, with extensive experience in defence capability sustainment activities. During his civilian consulting career, Alan has worked extensively within the Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group within Defence as well as Joint Logistics.