The Challenges and Opportunities of Implementing Artificial Intelligence in Procurement

The wonders of artificial intelligence are reaching more corners of modern industry each day. The simple reality is that in order to stay ahead of their competitors, companies have to welcome Artificial Intelligence into their operations or more specifically Artificial Intelligence in Procurement, using the technology to make long and tedious processes easier for human employees. And among many other aspects of modern business, this has begun to happen in the procurement process as well.

As is typical of significant changes in business though, executing change effectively can be difficult and time-consuming. It’s for this reason that leaders in procurement need to be aware not only of the promising opportunities Artificial Intelligence in Procurement brings about but also of the challenges it introduces along the way. Below, we’ll cover some of both.

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI)

OPPORTUNITIES IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN PROCUREMENT

The opportunities Artificial Intelligence in Procurement can provide in modern industries are limitless, but sometimes complicated or difficult to recognize right away. So long as procurement professionals are aware of the following specific opportunities though, the technology can quickly make a significant positive impact.

Improving Efficiency In Day-to-Day Operations

From mobile phones to laptops and tablets, technology has always helped people in procurement with mundane tasks, and A.I. is another technology that can speed up operations in this department. Our previous article about A.I. in procurement points out that in practice, the technology can understand and forecast procurement requirements even before human experts do – and just as accurately. Additionally, in the process, AI can provide clean and organized data, which can in turn help employees to make better decisions down the road.

Making Products More Reliably Available

A.I. can also benefit people working in procurement by making products themselves more readily available. Specifically, this can happen by way of the technology’s relationship to high-tech manufacturing methods. Today, A.I. systems can generate digital designs for products and convey them to 3D printing and injection molding systems, such that the products are automatically generated and made available for delivery. In discussing the finer points of these manufacturing methods, Fictiv makes clear that complex designs and orders of all sizes can be handled by injection molding and 3D printing providers, which in turn makes for a great deal of flexibility in procurement. With this sort of A.I.-driven, tech-based product sourcing, procurement divisions don’t have to worry as much about potential back-end supply issues.

Providing A Better Experience For Customers

Employees aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Artificial Intelligence in Procurement. Sure enough, the customers can too. Through the use of intelligent automated assistants (sometimes called “Virtual Procurement Assistants”), a company can provide intelligent support during the ordering process. In other words, customers can have their questions answered and concerns addressed quickly and accurately, while at the same time the amount of back-and-forth is reduced for employees. This allows customers to stay satisfied throughout ordering and invoicing processes but also enables employees to focus on the more practical internal aspects of procurement and order fulfillment.

CHALLENGES IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN PROCUREMENT

As stated, there are significant challenges that come with implementing Artificial Intelligence in the Procurement process as well. They can be managed, but it’s a good idea to consider them in advance so that you know what you’re in for.

A Lack Of Trust

The idea of robotic systems taking over human jobs has long been a theoretical sore spot among workforces – and lately, more industry employees are actually encountering the issue. Understandably, i can be difficult for a modern worker to trust that he or she will still be of use to a company that is implementing A.I. functions. Going even further, Forbes argues that there can even be fear, as human employees feel themselves losing control. These are issues that employers and managers are responsible for addressing, should they arise, by properly explaining the benefits of A.I. and providing ways for concerned employees to retain their sense of worth.

Pure Complexity

Another reason adoption of Artificial Intelligence in Procurement may be a slow process is that the technology comes with its own complexities. For instance, we noted above that it can assist in the procurement process by providing clean and organized data – but a business using this technology still needs human professionals capable of interpreting and acting on that data. Seemingly for this very reason, The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply actually recommends re-tooled hiring, such that a new class of experienced professionals can be brought in specifically to work with the A.I. system.

The Lack Of A Specific Plan

While A.I. in itself can prove to be beneficial, the lack of a proper implementation plan can cause it to be far less effective (or even problematic). It’s easy to adopt the impression that A.I. can simply handle itself, but the truth is that it needs to be handled, directed, and managed carefully. Therefore, any company looking to put A.I. to use in the procurement process needs a detailed plan covering goals and intention, implementation and employee education, and ongoing system management. Only with all of this in place can A.I. be optimally effective.

CONCLUSION

Artificial Intelligence in Procurement doesn’t come without challenges. However, planning for those challenges in advance and taking steps to work strategically with an A.I. system can help procurement professionals to enjoy numerous benefits. In the end, it’s a process more and more modern businesses will be undergoing, and done properly it can significantly improve operations.


Muddassir Ahmed