Why enterprise resource planning is the real AI opportunity

It’s time to start talking about how AI saves the world instead of destroying human race, even if it’s currently only doing so in games like chesss, go and most recently the video game Dota2.

No matter how the underlying technologies work and how you chose to define AI as real intelligence or not, the systems and algoritms are currently sophisticated enough to handle human complexity. The challenge is to work with a reliable data source.

I work in e-commerce and our challenge is that we keep lots of stuff in stock to be able to ship it to customers quickly. Any good e-commerce company rotates the entire stock between 10–20 times each year, trying to keep as little as possible in stock. Goods in stock equals tied up capital, and you don’t want that. Imagine if you could rotate your stock 365 times a year. AI might not get us all the way, but darn close.

Of course Amazon, is already ahead of the game here. In 2014 they launched the concept “anticipatory shipping”, basically a way to predict what you are going to buy and start shipping it to a hub near you even before you buy it! It does not just look at what needs to go where, but when it needs to go there, and takes in consideration any complexity or cost associated with seasonality.

So imagine if you basically don’t had to store anything in stock more than a day or two, but you still control the logistics to the the end customer. That is a huge business advantage and frees up capital like nothing else.

Now imagine that your suppliers do the same, and their suppliers, all the way up the value chain. At the top you will get to the resources we take from this planet and use in production. If everyone in the value chain knew exactly how many resources they need at any given time in the near future, we would eliminate waste and use the resources we have more economically. AI can also be used to actually plan resource production; what crops should we grow on these 100 fields?

Of course this utopia is far from where we will be in the next 10 years, but we start to look at AI as a top advisor to our managers of this planet and to the enterprises that want to survive in the future. I hope the next ground breaking example of AI in the media is around planning, collaborating and optimising rather than one more game where AI beat us.