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For decades, manufacturing decision makers have made inventory purchases based on experience. Yet, as global trends like sustainability and digitization force markets to evolve, that ability to estimate future need based instinct and education has become less reliable. Manufacturers worldwide are challenged to accommodate constantly shifting customer demands, before the customers even know what they want. As a result, manufacturers end up with SKUs they can’t sell occupying space in a warehouse or, even worse, missing out on an opportunity entirely when the market takes a different direction.

On February 26th and 27th, manufacturing leaders from around the world gathered together in Chicago, IL to showcase how AI is helping them navigate these very issues. At the Microsoft Envision Forum | Manufacturing, industry experts and AI specialists shared their insights on accelerating the path to Intelligent Manufacturing and usher in a new age of innovation.

The Intelligent Supply Chain

Innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning offer manufacturers the tools they need to not only make smarter inventory management decisions but improve productivity and create a more consistent supply chain in the process. Using models that analyze thousands of data inputs in a moment, AI can help make more insightful product recommendations by identifying the best times to refresh parts, supplies, and equipment.

With predictive analytics, manufacturers can use AI to monitor their existing inventory and provide customers with active recommendations and remote monitoring services to support greater return on investment. This proactive approach connects people and processes to next-generation technology to delight customers and create an intelligent supply chain.

An intelligent supply chain provides manufacturers with three advantages:

  1. Ensures the right products, parts, and services are available when and where they’re needed
  2. Balances customer service and budget to avoid downtime and penalties
  3. Empowers faster upstream and downstream collaboration even across complex value chains

Together, these elements work to provide businesses with a more intuitive and proactive solution for delivering on customer expectations while freeing spend that would have traditionally been committed to overhead.

Making AI More Accessible

While AI and an intelligent supply chain promise significant opportunities for manufacturers to optimize their operations and transform their products, these benefits don’t amount to much if they’re inaccessible. Every company has its own pain points; every factory has its nuances. A lucky shop may find a solution that fits its exact need, but those instances are rare. Instead, they rely on off-the-shelf solutions that add more value than they’re ready to leverage. Oftentimes, building a custom AI solution can be the best option for a modern manufacturer, but how many organizations have AI experience just waiting to be applied?

In either scenario, the barrier to entry need not prevent companies from experimenting with AI in their operations. The right AI partner equips organizations of all sizes to enter into AI with confidence by providing a foundation for discovery. By providing the expertise and insights manufacturers need to build a unique AI solution or identify an off-the-self solution that meets their needs, trusted AI partners make AI integration far more achievable.

The Microsoft Envision Forum was one event in a series of conversations that will shape the future of manufacturing. If you’re in need of an AI partner, want to take the next steps towards creating an intelligent supply chain, or are on your own path towards Intelligent Manufacturing, we would love to connect with you and learn your story. You can also learn about how our next-generation technologies are leading the way towards smarter, more efficient manufacturing solutions inside the Factory of the Future, here.