An intelligent take on AI

The increased use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise logistics and supply chain management across the globe.

Just how big that revolution will be, and how businesses are already responding to the challenge, is the focus of Professor Yahaya Yusuf’s latest research work.

He is the director of the Institute of Logistics and Operations Management at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and an internationally recognised expert in his field.

His research has examined the role of Big Data and Business Analytics when it comes to agile manufacturing practices and developing supply chain networks to support this growing way of working.

Prof Yusuf is now keen to build relationships with companies, both in Lancashire, and further afield, as he sets off on his quest to put together a full and detailed picture of the impact of AI on the logistics sector.

He says: “If organisations have already implemented AI we’re eager to look at their processes and to discover what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

“If they’re looking to implement AI and want to use Big Data effectively, then we are keen to work with them, to see how we can help them take their ideas forward.”

It is an approach he has taken into his previous leading-edge research in agile manufacturing and supply chains.

And it has seen him and his team work with a range of businesses, looking at the need for efficient organisational structures that reflect customer requirements.

They include aerospace, defence and power group Rolls-Royce and Cablepoint, a medium sized business that specialises in the manufacture of cable assemblies, wiring looms and control panels.

He says there are both benefits and challenges when it comes to the deployment of Big Data within operations and supply chains - but the bottom line has to be operational and performance improvements.

The UCLan institute that he heads, based on its Preston campus, has worked closely with a number of companies as they work to improve their supply chain systems.

One of the keys to that improvement is having strong and resilient Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Prof Yusuf says.

The aim is to link all areas of the company, from order management to manufacturing, HR, financial systems and distributions, into a tightly integrated system with shared data and visibility.

Prof Yusuf adds: “When it comes to an ERP, it is not good enough to just plan the resources needed to run the enterprise, they need to be managed well.

“Some of the businesses don’t realise the full benefits ERP system offers because they’re not organised in a way to achieve the benefits.

“Others fail because the organisation isn’t ready for integration. Get this wrong and it can be costly.”

Prof Yusuf has also carried out extensive research on supply chain efficiencies, working with businesses on lean systems and ways to improve their operations and stock-keeping processes whilst helping them to identify and capitalise on their order qualifiers and order winners to achieve longterm competitiveness.

“Responsiveness” and “agility” are two words he uses often when it comes to supply chain management. Big Data and AI are going to be central to delivering this and to respond to changing markets and customer requirements.

He says: “Agility requires real-time information in order to act quickly to ensure the whole supply chain’s activities are completed, so as to reach the market as quickly as possible and with minimum cost and high-quality products and services.”

He adds: “We’re looking at the processes that organisations are adopting to improve their performance. There are challenges but the potential prize for success is huge.”

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