25 Marzo 2024

Unlock the full potential of your next-generation supply chain with Microsoft and Blue Yonder

This blog was co-authored by Shannon Wu-Lebron, Corporate Vice President, Industry Strategies, Blue Yonder.

In a world where market complexity and disruptions are common, retail organizations must learn to navigate and be ready to adapt to new challenges. Retailers seek to get ahead of supply chain disruptions, embrace workforce transformation, and address economic uncertainties—all in the context of a “new era of AI” that has emerged with generative AI, where technology serves a pivotal role in future-proofing businesses.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail accelerates business growth by providing retail-specific capabilities across the Microsoft Cloud portfolio to seamlessly connect your customers, people, and data. Together with Blue Yonder, Microsoft’s generative AI-powered scenarios are enabling retail organizations to create agile, resilient, and sustainable supply chains by connecting data across their ecosystems to identify issues and optimize performance. Microsoft and Blue Yonder have been at the forefront of a cognitive revolution of supply chain innovation, laying the foundation for a truly intelligent, autonomous supply chain, with a predictive and generative AI copilot, delivering faster and better decision making.

Retail and consumer goods companies are turning to AI, including generative AI, predictive AI, machine learning, and automation, to respond faster and in an agile and scalable way to a myriad of problems. These emerging technologies reimagine the user experience, unlock productivity, and drive greater efficiencies in a way that was previously not possible. Harnessing AI, machine learning, and generative AI in this way affords greater visibility and insights into the next best actions. When integrated into retail planning and execution workflows, generative AI can transform the way teams respond to evolving market dynamics, continuously adjusting decision-making based on demand and supply signals, while considering exponentially more scenarios in a fraction of the time it would take the team to compile.

Happy man working online at a cafe while drinking a cup of coffee.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail

Connect your customers, your people, and your data

Gain efficiency and profitable growth with the power of AI and machine learning for retailers

In the evolving landscape of supply chain management, the integration of AI is becoming a popular strategy for enhancing efficiency and innovation. While the journey of implementing AI and machine learning technologies can be challenging, with some initiatives possibly not fully achieving their expected outcomes, this doesn’t detract from the potential value AI brings to the table. The effectiveness of AI doesn’t solely rely on its application to existing processes but rather on a transformative approach towards how these technologies are embedded within the organizational fabric. Embracing AI is about more than just technological adoption; it’s about reshaping the foundational elements of workflows and processes to truly leverage the power of predictive insights, automation, and data-driven recommendations.

Traditional, linear supply chains, business units and even data currently exist in silos, perpetuated by the inherently disjointed nature of how supply chains were originally constructed: every function contained within its respective walls. These silos can lead to slower decisions and hinder collaboration throughout the organization. Each functional team lacks visibility beyond their sphere of influence, and often doesn’t understand the impact of their actions on other business areas. When AI and machine learning are applied in this environment, quick decisions can conflict, and optimized key performance indicators (KPIs) can cancel each other out. It is therefore imperative that organizations centralize their data, standardized into a single data model that is ready for AI and machine learning consumption, and connect their workflows to reap the full benefits of AI and machine learning. Once connected, businesses can leverage AI to orchestrate the entire supply chain, allowing visibility and collaboration between all functional teams, all driving toward common goals: to fuel profitable growth and delight the end customer.

Unlocking the power of AI

Introducing AI in a Minute: A video series on the tech behind generative AI

Read the blog

There’s a lot of hype around generative AI right now, and for good reason. Its inherent creativity, speed, and automation have been viewed as a potential way to replace labor, but we would caution that view is an incomplete view of what this emerging technology can do and how it can be applied. Rather than seeing the technology as competing with human workers, generative AI offers an unprecedented opportunity to enhance industry expertise and experience, unlocking levels of productivity.  

Imagine: instead of having to search multiple systems to find the answer to your question, you have a dedicated assistant that can access the far reaches of your company’s system-wide knowledge, and in a moment return any answer to any question—in simple, everyday terms. Think about the impact this would have on your team’s productivity, quality of performance, and overall satisfaction. Or how this could dramatically accelerate the onboarding of new team members. The opportunities are endless, and as more use cases are discovered, generative AI can and should be used to supplement or redeploy the efforts of human workers in ways that empower and enable teams, not supplant the workforce. While these technologies cut down on manual processes, saving time and effort while providing robust recommendations and thorough data, the human touch will always be necessary to some degree. 

Adapting to new information and updates is vital to controlling your supply chain and making the best choices, and AI holds the key to greatly improved shopper experiences. By using automation and AI, stores can stay ahead of customer demand and keep their shelves stocked with the right product at the right time, and at the right price. Applying predictive analytics to internal and external data can help identify potential disruptions before they happen, empowering teams to proactively respond before it impacts end customers. And bringing holistic data from your warehouse, logistics network, staffing plans and more together with market conditions, seasonality, weather, and traffic patterns can provide a 360-degree view of how shoppers think, act, and what they will experience as consumers.  

By partnering with Blue Yonder and their strategic services team, an iconic fashion retailer will be able to align sales demand forecasting and replenishment by using Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning throughout their supply chain to improve agility and efficiency. After introducing Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning, the retailer will reduce time spent on set up and maintenance tasks like adjusting to trends, seasonality, and more. Because the solution dynamically adjusts to the latest marketing needs, there will be improved decision-making speed and automated accuracy, resulting in better performance and greater collaboration across teams while using fewer resources and improving global inventory control.  

Microsoft and Blue Yonder taking retail planning to new heights with AI and machine learning

Blue Yonder and Microsoft are transforming the way supply chains are run. The Blue Yonder Luminate Cognitive Platform, which runs on Microsoft Azure, is embedded with AI and machine learning and serves as the foundation for all systems and applications. Retailers can spin up unconstrained computing power to run hundreds of simulations in a matter of minutes, versus in a few hours—or days. Blue Yonder’s solutions also run on a single source of truth, eliminating batch so teams don’t have to sacrifice accuracy for speed. As a result, retailers are collapsing the time horizon between planning and execution to nearly zero, while working synchronously across their supply chain. Integrated generative AI serves as a force multiplier for productivity so teams can do more important things more frequently and drive continuous optimization. To enable this transformation, Blue Yonder recently announced the launch of two next-generation planning solutions for retail, Cognitive Demand Planning and Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning, as well as its generative AI solution, Blue Yonder Orchestrator.

The Blue Yonder Cognitive Demand Planning solution utilizes patented Blue Yonder algorithms and machine learning models to forecast, shape, and sense demand while collecting inputs from all key stakeholders to produce an optimized plan. These capabilities reduce the effort required to simulate drivers in real-time while managing more complex scenarios, resulting in faster and more accurate results. By seamlessly bringing together AI and machine learning driven capabilities, Cognitive Demand Planning empowers teams to respond faster to problems while building supply chain resilience and managing more complex scenarios, providing a leg up for demand planners to deliver higher plan accuracy and more relevant AI-driven insights.

Traditional merchandise financial planning can be a manual and reactive process. Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning from Blue Yonder solves these problems and more. Blue Yonder can take your manual process and transform them into long-range planning and workflows that span across stores, e-commerce, wholesale, and more. This planning solution adjusts to fit your needs, with planning processes that can be configured based on your priorities and business objectives. To more accurately predict upcoming challenges, AI-enabled ‘what if’ scenarios allow a multitude of roles in the company to make quality decisions based on all available data, enabling a true omnichannel planning process. Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning also makes it easier to analyze data after the fact—from large aggregations to slicing down to granular data—or continuous learning and optimization.

Integrated within the Luminate Cognitive Platform, Blue Yonder Orchestrator brings together the power of generative AI, the natural language capabilities of large language models (LLMs) and the depth of Blue Yonder’s supply chain expertise to unlock the full value of data. This unique solution delivers dynamic decision-making and orchestration by allowing users to query in everyday language then providing recommendations and insights in an easy-to-use format. This approach accelerates the learning curve for new employees while increasing overall productivity by serving up insights and guided recommendations without needing to navigate multiple software applications. Because Blue Yonder Orchestrator is embedded within the Luminate Cognitive Platform, which runs on Azure, it inherently benefits from robust security measures, auditing, reliability, and cost control. With Blue Yonder Orchestrator, companies can also establish guardrails based on user permissions, protecting data access without inhibiting performance. No matter what your focus is, using generative AI can bring you closer to your goals.

Getting started with AI and machine learning

How to get started with AI for industry and business leaders

Read the blog

At the end of the day, these emerging technologies have been proven to help accelerate better business outcomes when the right foundation is in place. Supply chains are an excellent place to incorporate predictive AI, generative AI, and automation due to the number of moving parts and the massive amounts of data generated. AI can unlock the complete value of data in near real-time for better insights to increase efficiency of decision-making. For example, while a person can only create so many scenarios in a day, AI’s unconstrained computing powers enables it to process hundreds of scenarios in minutes. These data-driven insights allow teams to focus their time on making value-added, high-impact decisions rather than on manual data entry and analysis.

AI, machine learning, and automation are great tools that can act as a force multiplier for supply chain efficiency and profitability. While new solutions are cropping up every day, it’s imperative to look for business applications that run on a centralized, cloud-based platform, a single database, have connected workflows, and have AI and machine learning embedded throughout. With this foundation, retailers will be empowered to break down existing silos, foster both inter-and intra-enterprise collaboration, and drive their businesses towards a future of greater resilience and sustainability.

Explore solutions from Microsoft and Blue Yonder

The post Unlock the full potential of your next-generation supply chain with Microsoft and Blue Yonder appeared first on Microsoft Industry Blogs.

Source: Microsoft Industry Blog