The rise of cutting-edge, disruptive technologies is changing the face of procurement.
When Jarvis Meets Alfred
Marvel and DC have a novel way to predict what our near future would look like in 2050 and beyond. Let’s consider the work of Stark Industries and Wayne Enterprises. Both are technology organizations — one develops and manufactures advanced weapon and defense technologies, and the other is a military defense contractor that has dozens of umbrella companies involved across multiple sectors.
Try to look into the manufacturing side of things through the eyes of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne. They revolutionized technology at a time when voice-modulated technology, automation and seamless communication were made to look easy and error-free. Their technology has a unique patent, quite different from what Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant can do. Jarvis and Alfred make Siri, Alexa and the like look like children.
Imagine if we could talk to technology and it did everything for us, right from purchasing to shipping, to receiving and invoicing, and all we had to do was to talk. This would save time, energy, cost and, most importantly, the process would be seamless. Let’s call this technology “Terry.”
Me: “Terry, I need some paper.”
Terry: “Certainly, what kind?”
Terry: “Paper World is the best choice, as they are cheaper by the box and they deliver within 24 hours, with no minimum and are 3 percent cheaper than their competitors. We save 4 percent annually with an additional 3 percent rebate on cost annually. And before you ask, yes we do have a contract and it is up for renewal in six months.”
Me: “Excellent, send them a PO and mark that delivery urgent.”
You see what I mean? An AI with self-learning capabilities. As time goes by, Terry would learn everything there is to learn about purchasing trends within an organization, and would use its best strategy to improve purchasing, while making it seamless and error-free.
Let’s go a little deeper. Let’s say there are AIs like Ironman’s Jarvis that everybody uses in the procurement and sourcing space. Now, we have Jarvis talking to other AIs like Icarus, and Icarus talking to Ava, and so on. We could have AIs replacing us — having meetings, discussions, negotiations and running the entire purchasing cycle with the best possible outcome. Seems quite surreal.
This is the real meaning of automation, in my opinion. But what would that do to us? What would a world like this be like? Purchasing is far more complex for any system to take over, but the emergence of AI with self-learning capabilities and complex algorithms could pave the way for a Jarvis, reducing the need for human intervention. Would they take over and control us? We don’t want our machines to rise against us. Okay, let’s not get too dramatic here.
We don’t want to be too dependent on AI. Automation is good, to an extent, but if it did go beyond our control it could create havoc. Markets and economies could crash, causing widespread panic and perhaps even war. We haven’t reached there yet (or maybe we have). Maybe we, as humans, do understand the perils of too much automation. We all need Batman’s Alfred to control the likes of Jarvis I say.
In its journey of maturity, procurement has gone through dramatic changes, evolving from a tactical function to a digitalized, strategic process.
Today’s supply chain needs to be flexible and agile, capable of responding quickly and positively to sudden changes — and that cannot be achieved t