We live in a world where people like to pitch man against machine. But isn’t the truth that humans should be working with technology to drive a more efficient future?
As we mentioned in a previous blog post on why AI empowers the retail workforce, the rise of process automation should not be something to fear. While the number and type of retail roles will change over the next few years, this will open the door for employees to redevelop their jobs in a way that plays to their strengths, increasing both their morale and their productivity.
This certainly fits with Blue Yonder’s vision of the future, where AI is used to make people work smarter.
Moving to the new world of retail
As a pioneer of AI-based decision-making, we are already seeing the significant difference that automation is making to retail operations.
Among early adopters, manual processes and human judgement have been replaced by Machine Learning and deep learning; delayed data has been superseded by billions of real-time decisions, made instantly; and the high degree of human error and bias often found in retail organizations has been eliminated.
These companies are living in the new world of retail, in which they can cope with (and make the most of) a high number of data points, model predictable outcomes, take specific actions as the result of deep-level insight, and measure the financial impact of their actions alongside the operational effect.
But at the beating heart of these retail brands still lies their workforce. Highly skilled people who are expert ambassadors, customer nurturers, and emotional supporters. The difference between the old world and the new world of retail is that their time is now solely focused on tasks that are constructive to the business.
The future is now
As these early adopters show, AI is not a technology of the future, but a business enabler for today – and it’s amazing that more companies aren’t harnessing its benefits already.
One barrier to adoption that some retailers claim is that change can be disruptive to retail staff. However, a big selling points for using AI to automate key processes is that it is non-disruptive; the workforce can continue as usual while the Machine Learning works in the background to enhance replenishment optimization, price optimization and demand planning.
Not only that, but the results are quick to deliver, which makes the business case for decision automation very persuasive. Typically, Blue Yonder projects can deliver value in 3-6 months – so key personnel can see straight away how AI enhances everyday processes, and benefit from an immediate uplift in performance.
Powering the people
To date, a lot of the innovation surrounding workplace productivity has focused on hardware; finding the right device to connect store associates to the customer, and to provide operational data that will improve the service on offer.
However, true transformation starts at the core of the business, and Machine Learning completely changes the way retailers do business. Not only that, but every level of employee – from head office to the shop floor – can see, understand and benefit from its impact.
And with automation ensuring that supply more closely matches demand, profits are up, which generates greater resources for investing in staff training and development, to further maximize productivity. As a result, the retail workforce can concentrate on getting even better at the things they do best, with AI enabling enhanced decision-making every day.