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8 Ways your AP Process Leaks Spend – and How AI can Prevent it

AI

8 Ways your AP Process Leaks Spend – and How AI can Prevent it

Today’s companies put huge efforts into negotiating the best terms with their suppliers. Procurement teams regularly spend weeks or months going back and forth on contract terms and volume discounts to get the most bang for their buck.

Too often, these savings aren’t realized. Suppliers may ignore the negotiated terms when invoicing, and AP teams, faced with a deluge of invoices and limited time to get payments out the door, only sample select transactions and only do basic 2 or 3 way matching of volume and price. This inevitably means costly invoice problems fall through the cracks — from mismatched invoice and contract terms, to unapplied discounts, to completely bogus charges, and more.

Optimizing your AP process may seem like a big undertaking, but it’s much easier than it might seem, and worth the effort. According to The International Association of Contracts and Commercial Management (IACCM), companies that work to improve controls over invoice payment will see a return of more than 4 percent of invoice value.

Even if you’re ready to improve your AP process, one pesky question remains: How do you actually do it? Once upon a time, it would have been necessary to hire more people to check every transaction. But today, technology can provide a crucial and cost-effective assist for overstretched AP teams.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more common in business contexts. Nearly 90 percent of companies planned to increase AI spend in 2019, according to a Deloitte survey. However, the idea of actually using AI may feel a little unrealistic for some. While more and more corporations are automating AP processes, 30 percent of businesses still rely on manual invoice processing, according to The Institute of Finance and Management.

If you’ve already implemented other technologies in your workflow, AI can fit in seamlessly. AI-powered spend automation software integrates with existing expense management, invoice automation, contract management, and ERP systems to augment rather than disrupt your status quo.

8 common (and costly) invoice problems

Here are just a few of the problems AI-powered solutions can help your team avoid during the spend audit process:

1. Fraudulent invoices: When it comes to invoice fraud, if you can dream it, chances are fraudsters have tried it: From inflated invoices, to completely made-up charges, to shell companies, to vendor impersonation, and more.

Too often, the calls are coming from inside the house. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that occupational fraud (fraud committed by employees against employers) resulted in more than $7 billion in total losses in 2018. AI systems with a compliance component can spot risk factors commonly associated with fraud so your team has a chance to review these invoices manually before they’re paid out.

2. Duplicate invoices: Up to two percent of the average company’s invoices a duplicates, according to AuditNet. This may seem like a relatively small number, but for businesses doling out millions or billions on business activities, the figure is far from trivial.

Some vendors might double up charges on purpose, but often duplicate invoices are mistakes (after all, your vendors’ finance teams are overworked too). While some invoice automation systems try to catch these double charges, they usually only succeed if the invoices are labeled with the same number or have the exact same total — which isn’t always the case, particularly if there’s someone scheming behind the scenes.

3. Missing discounts: You fought hard for volume discounts, but how often are you checking invoices to make sure they’re applied? AI-based systems can often  compare contract and invoice terms automatically to make sure you’re not missing out on early payment, loyalty, or quantity discounts. You’ll be notified of any missing discounts so you can remedy the situation before you pay. In the case of early payment discounts, this software notifies you that the invoice should be prioritized to get payment out in ample time.

 4. Mismatched service levels: You signed up for the standard package, but you’re being charged for the premium offering. This type of mismatch is all too easy to overlook amid your monthly deluge of invoices.

The correct AI solution can compare agreed-upon service levels in your contract with every invoice you receive to make sure that this type of costly problem doesn’t fly under the radar. When it comes to physical items, it can ensure you receive all the items you’re being billed for before you pay, by double-checking shipping documents against inventory systems.

5. Double payments: Double payments can happen as a result of vendors submitting duplicate invoices, but the problem can also originate from your own team. Accounting systems hold up an invoice for all sorts of reasons, e.g., it requires further approval or it failed a match. In many cases, an employee might intervene to get the invoice paid manually (to meet a deadline or because they’re being pestered by a supplier or don’t want to damage a relationship). Meanwhile, the invoice is still in your system and when the hold is later cleared up, it’s processed and paid… again.

This is another one of those sources of spend leakage that most companies never become aware of. AI-powered systems constantly cross-check invoices and payments and flag any duplicate payments before you send them out, so the money never leaves the front door.

6. Exorbitant pricing: It can be difficult and time-consuming to keep track of the market rate for all the various services and products your business requires. AI can regularly compare your current costs to thousands of other sources to determine whether your invoices reflect the market rate for the goods or services provided. It can also flag individual invoices where your price exceeds the market rate.

Knowledge is power, and this information helps your business negotiate more effectively with existing suppliers or look to new ones if there’s an opportunity for cost savings without sacrificing quality.

7. Unsatisfactory work activity: When it comes to hiring contractors, there are situations when it’s particularly difficult to understand and assess whether they’re fulfilling their agreed-upon duties, like professional and IT services. AI-based tools can ingest nearly unlimited data to build a profile of what comprises satisfactory work activity — e.g., regular activity in Slack or over email — and highlight changes in the typical patterns. This helps you verify that you’re paying contractors fairly for the work product they’re providing.

8. Overpaying for software: Are you licensed for seven software seats, but only using three? It’s not uncommon for organizations to overpay for software licenses without ever realizing it. AI-based software keeps tabs on your organization’s software usage and compare it to the charges on your monthly invoices to help alert you to savings opportunities.

How AI can help

Implementing a best-in-class AI solution can support a consistent process and add an additional layer of scrutiny. These solutions make it possible to audit 100% of invoice spend prior to payment, automatically and near-instantaneously checking every invoice in your system for risk factors before they’re paid, and flagging the highest risk items for your team to review. This will help your team get ahead of problems and potential leakage, rather than try to recover it afterwards.

Below are the critical requirements for considering an AI solution for AP spend management:

1. Audit 100%, prepayment. Automatically audit 100% of invoices before reimbursement with AI.

2. Understand documents. Instantly scan every line of every invoice to understand charges and track the correct spend category.

3. Enrich with intelligence. Check online sources to identify better prices for similar goods and services.

4. Assess and refine risk. Flag suspicious addresses or billing changes to avoid fraud. Spot duplicate charges from other invoices, other invoice systems, or from expenses.

5. Streamline process. Integrate into your existing AP automation system to audit every invoice in real time to spot errors, waste, and fraud.

Conclusion

The best AI software can help your team regain control over your spend by checking every single transaction to identify high-risk invoices in your pipeline — saving time, streamlining processes, and ultimately reducing spend leakage.

If your AP team’s efforts to find problematic spend feels neverending, you’re not alone — but it doesn’t have to be that way. AI has changed the paradigm for modern finance teams, giving them greater visibility into their AP process and the time they need to address the highest risk issues. Not only can AI transform the way finance teams operate, it also saves them business money by spotting problems consistently and before invoices are paid. By implementing a leading AI solution, your team can audit 100% of spend, make sure that every invoice complies with its contract terms, and ensure you’re receiving every savings opportunity you’re entitled to — all while paying your bills on time.

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Anant Kale founded AppZen in 2012 to bring AI into back offices around the world. As CEO he is responsible for the product vision and execution of the company’s broad mission. Previously he was the VP of Applications at Fujitsu America from 2009-2012, responsible for product management, and delivery of Fujitsu’s applications and infrastructure for enterprise. He has 15+ years of experience in software development. He has an MBA and a BS in Finance and Engineering from Mumbai University.

data

Made Dizzy By COVID-19 Data? Artificial Intelligence Helps Clear Things Up.

As governors begin to make decisions about reopening the economy, Americans are left to wonder whether they should follow their state government’s lead – or make their own decisions about when to return to normal.

One problem for the average person: How to decipher the multitudes of data about COVID-19 and evaluate whether the country or any particular state is – or is not – flattening the curve.

“It’s easy to find tons of data online with charts and graphs, but all those numbers can be overwhelming,” says Sharon Daniels, chief executive officer of Arria (www.arria.com), which specializes in a form of artificial intelligence known as Natural Language Generation (NLG). “You see a line on a graph, but what is it telling you?”

Daniels’ company is among those trying to simplify that complex chore for Americans, using artificial intelligence to transform that raw data into an easy-to-understand narrative. To this end, Arria is involved with two online initiatives – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report – that give Americans access to NLG as they try to grasp all the information coming their way from scientists, government officials, and the media.

Each of these free dashboards allows anyone – from government leaders to journalists to citizens – to review up-to-date COVID-19 data, along with critical insights transformed into writing by Arria’s Natural Language Generation software. The software uses language analytics and computational linguistics to “think” like a writer, pulling the most important information to the top of the narrative, providing critical insights, and giving meaning to the tabulated reports and visualizations.

Just as an example, a resident of Pulaski County, KY, who checked in on April 23 would have learned that in their community the previous day “there were 2 new cases and no deaths reported. During the past 7 days, cases have increased by 7, which means the seven-day rolling average for cases is 1.”

No human wrote those sentences. They were penned automatically by the NLG software.

As Arria and others do their part to help Americans work their way through the sea of information, there is evidence that such assistance is both needed and wanted:

Gallup poll shows lots of confusion about the state of the virus in the U.S., with Americans reaching no consensus on how they think things now stand; 41 percent say the situation is getting better, 39 percent say it is getting worse, and 20 percent say it is staying the same.

A 2017 study of the U.S. public’s understanding of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa found that most people are good at assessing risk when information is communicated accurately and effectively. That study also found that Americans want accurate and honest information, even if that information might worry people.

Knowing the facts is one way people can reduce their stress level during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “When you share accurate information about COVID-19,” the CDC reports, “you can help make people feel less stressed.”

“The sheer flood of data and information we are seeing daily about the pandemic is nearly impossible to process without the help of technology,” Daniels says. “People want information that will help them understand what’s happening, particularly in the areas where they live. But if that information is too confusing and complicated, they are going to remain confused and scared – wondering what to do, how to help, or how to keep their families safe.”

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Sharon Daniels is the chief executive officer of Arria (www.arria.com), which specializes in a form of artificial intelligence known as Natural Language Generation. Daniels’ entrepreneurial career in building and expanding technology startups began in 1984 and has now spanned more than three decades of technology evolution. Her previous experience includes serving as founding executive director of Diligent Corp., a technology company that grew to become a member of the S&P/NZX 50 composite index before being acquired by Insight Venture Partners for $624 million.

response

Global Trade Magazine Launches COVID C.A.R.E. Business Response Program

Global Trade Magazine is ramping up efforts in supporting global businesses by utilizing a new set of tools found in its technology toolbox. Companies capable of adapting their technology through the crisis are doing so at a record pace as leading automotive giants are now churning out respirators instead of automobiles while whiskey producers scramble to make hand sanitizer to help meet demand. Global Trade Magazine is doing the same thing for global businesses and their customer base.

“Responding to global business leader and customer questions and concerns will be more critical than ever now. Doing so effectively is a monumental task for many global trade players, yet doing so will be the difference in businesses keeping their operations moving and laying off hundreds or even thousands. We’ve re-engineered our Artificial Intelligence product to meet customer demands,” stated Eric Kleinsorge, CEO and Publisher of Global Trade Magazine.

The Global Trade COVID C.A.R.E. (Coronavirus Automated Response Effort) Local Response Program takes a unique approach in supporting global businesses and their efforts in responding to customer concerns by utilizing AI response systems. This integrated system Records, Responds, Alerts, Prioritizes and Completes requests from customers that need information and answers from global businesses in the global trade community. Instead of fearing this change, the Global Trade Mag team linked arms and stepped up to the challenge. From receiving requests and concerns to automated feedback, request prioritization, and system follow-ups, the Global Trade Response Program offers an integrated system of checks and balances that captures every request from every customer.

“We have been in the business of helping global companies communicate with their customers and now it’s our turn to help these businesses communicate and update these customers,” Kleinsorge concluded.

To request information on how this program can help your business, please click here or call (469) 778-2606.

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About GSLI/Global Trade Magazine

Global Site Location Industries (GSLI) is the parent company of Global Trade Magazine and was founded in 1994 by Eric Kleinsorge with a very specific goal in mind: grow local and global communities while bringing business projects to life through strategic economic development partnerships and customer management strategies. He is recognized in over 110 articles as an industry expert and has conducted interviews with well-known figures including George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Jay Leno, Jerry Jones, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Dell, and many more.

Not only do the companies support community and global branding, but we bring company goals to life through a tailored approach to attracting sustainable businesses and customer partnerships. We take pride in our reputation as an expert in assisting expanding and relocating companies partner with the world’s finest companies. For more than 20 years, GSLI has been the premier partner of choice for companies– both big and small, looking to create a solid economic and customer foundation primed for growth and success.

modex

MODEX Day Three: Robotics & Automation Continue Maturing

In typical Modex fashion, robotics and automation were among the hot topics discussed by keynote speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. A vast array of capabilities, sizes, and industry-specific robotics could be found throughout the show floor, each showing off a new capability. It’s clear that robotics continue to evolve and show no signs of slowing down progress in meeting demand within warehouses and distribution centers.

Mike Futch, President of Tompkins Robotics made this point very clear during his session on Wednesday afternoon titled, “The Lights Out DC/FC: How Close Can We Get?”

Futch addressed the use of various technologies to address workforce constraints while improving the effectiveness and performance of the supply chain.  He identified what advancements will assist in solving bottlenecks such as facility constraints, space issues, and the current situation in unemployment. As these challenges persist, robotics continues to mature.

“There’s a limited workforce, a limited number of people that can drive the distance to enter the immediate geographic region, and these larger buildings are competing for that workforce that’s already at a low unemployment rate along with offering increased wages and siphoning workers off of others. This is a real challenge for some markets.”

“Labor is scarce and we have record-low unemployment, typically to expand capacity from a volume perspective and companies are turning to more shifts. If you already have a tight labor market and you’re adding shifts, where are the workers coming from? And this creates a bigger problem.”

The workforce is a key constraint and while workforce rates are lower than others in some places, Futch states that companies are competing to stay ahead of demand through increased wages while solving the best approach to a limited workforce.

Machines continue to do the same things a human can do but without interruptions with repetitive, difficult, or taxing work that inevitably fatigues the human body. That being said, the industry still requires a skilled workforce and robotics should not be purchased for their appeal. It’s becoming clear that a blend of workers and robotics is a more common theme for integrating such advancements over the idea that robotics will “overtake” worker’s jobs. In fact, robotics is providing a way to re-establish worker tasks rather than eliminating the worker.

“Robotics has matured tremendously from where they were a few years ago. About 5-10 years ago, the pick-and-place robots at the show could not do the things they are capable of doing now. Two years from now, they’ll have the capability to do twice as much as now. Robotics is maturing and meeting the three R’s: improve rate, improve reliability, and improve the range of products and items,” he explained. ”

In terms of a fully automated DC, Futch added that about 60-85 percent of manual tasks can be automated realistically rather than a “lights out” center.

“Beyond the pick-and-place robots, other robots are doing the same thing: creating a blur of separation between what a human can do and what a machine can do.”

AI

9 Spend Duplicates Only AI Can Catch

What prevention methods does your company have in place to prevent duplicate spend? Most modern invoice automation systems can look out for two invoices with the same invoice number, or the same amount, and stop a payment that appears to be a duplicate. But this doesn’t find typos in invoice numbers, duplicates across expense and AP systems, or a number of other scenarios you may not even be considered.

AI can help. When it comes to duplicate spend, AI takes an expansive view, looking across all back-office systems, identifying duplicate spend across multiple payments, and more.

By taking advantage of the structured data in your spend systems as well as the unstructured data in your invoices and receipts, you can identify duplicates with ease.

Below are nine types of duplicates that only AI can catch.

1. Manual keying errors

Invoice processes often rely on manual data entry, which is error-prone. An employee might mistype the letter “O” as the number “0”, or “SEPT” as “SEP.” These types of duplicates are preventable and common, but wouldn’t be caught by a traditional invoice system. AI can find manual entry errors in invoice numbers or dates that typically fly under the radar in invoice automation systems and flag them for review.

2. Different supplier divisions

Your company might do business with multiple supplier divisions. These names may be listed separately in your supplier master list, so if you receive the same invoice from these entities, your AP automation system may not detect it. AI can flag duplicate invoices for the same deliverables sent from a supplier’s headquarters and international divisions.

3. Different company divisions

Similar to the example above, your own company’s internal divisions can create confusion. Each division within your company may have its own AP organization and approvals process, and wouldn’t know if an invoice was already received and paid by a separate department. AI can flag duplicate invoices for the same deliverables that are sent to different divisions.

4. Overlapping or cumulative

A supplier may send several invoices and then a quarter-end cumulative invoice, for example, three separate invoices at different amounts (one for $8,500, one for $4,000, and one for $13,200) and then a quarter-end invoice for $25,700. Traditional invoice systems may not catch this, but AI will flag these invoices for review.

5. Line-level

AP automation systems may not extract line details from an invoice. AI will check for duplicates at the line level and discover that, for example, the same services were included in two separate invoices.

6. Different AP systems

Maybe you have several back-office systems because of company mergers. When duplicate invoices hit different systems, your company may never know it. AI integrates with multiple invoice automation systems and flags duplicates regardless of which system they’re in.

7. Duplicate crossover spend

Your company likely doesn’t have visibility across its invoice automation and expense systems, causing you to pay twice for the same service if it’s submitted via T&E reimbursement and again via accounts payable. AI flags this so payments aren’t sent twice.

8. Duplicate expense claim submitted by two different employees

Maybe this is a mistake, or maybe the employees know that expense reports aren’t cross-referenced (especially if they have two different managers, or are in two different departments). Whatever the reason, AI can cross-reference expense reports from any department and flag when the same receipt is found on two different reports.

9. Duplicate expense claim in the same report

After a long business trip, all the receipts may begin to look the same, and an employee might accidentally submit the same expense twice in the same expense report. AI looks at individual line items and flags any duplicates.

How AI can help

Duplicates can take many different forms and can be difficult to find in a manual review process. To gain visibility into their business spend, many companies have embraced AI to achieve 100% visibility into expenses and invoices. Companies that automate their audit process are able to find errors, fraud, and non-compliant spend before payment.

To learn more about how 100% visibility into business spend means to you and gain additional insights on auditing business spend with AI, download our latest research report, The State of Business Spend. The findings focus on the impact of auditing with AI, the risk hiding in expenses and invoices, risky spend, and more.

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Josephine McCann is a Senior Marketing Associate at AppZen, the world’s leading solution for automated expense report audits that leverages artificial intelligence to audit 100% of expense reports, invoices and contacts in seconds.

artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Market to Reach $54 Billion by 2026

According to a new study published by Polaris Market Research, the global artificial intelligence market is anticipated to reach USD 54 billion by 2026. The advancements of robots and the rise in their deployment rate particularly, in the developing economies globally have had a positive impact on the global artificial intelligence market.

Augmented customer experience, expanded application areas, enhanced productivity, and big data integration have highly propelled the artificial intelligence market worldwide. Although, the absence of adequate skilled workforce, as well as threat to human dignity, are some of the factors that could affect the growth of the market. However, these factors are expected to have minimal impact on the market attributed to the introduction of advanced technologies.

An extraordinary increase in productivity has been achieved with machine-learning. For instance, Google, with the help of its experimental driverless technology has transformed cars including, Toyota Prius. The integration of various tools by artificial intelligence has helped in the transformation of business management. These tools include brand purchase advertising, workflow management tools, trend predictions among others. For example, Google’s voice accuracy technology has a 98% accuracy rate. Furthermore, Facebook’s DeepFace technology has a success rate of approximately 97% in recognizing faces. Such accuracy in technologies is further anticipated to bolster the market growth during the forecast period.

Currently, North America dominates the global artificial intelligence market attributed to the high government funding availability, existence of prominent providers in the region, and robust technical adoption base. Also, the region is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period. Moreover, the adoption of cloud-based services in key economies, such as the US and Canada, is considering adding to the market growth in the North American region. The markets in Asia Pacific, MEA and South America region are expected to notice a high growth during the coming years. The growth in the Asia Pacific region is attributed to the increasing demand for artificial technologies by the developing economies. Thus, the region is anticipated to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.

 

Major companies profiled in the report include Google Inc., Intel Corporation, Nvidia Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, IBM Corporation, General Vision, Inc., Qlik Technologies Inc., MicroStrategy, Inc., Brighterion, Inc., and Baidu, Inc. among others.

Key Findings from the study suggest North America is expected to command the market over the forecast years. APAC is presumed to be the fastest-growing market, developing at a CAGR of more than 65% over the forecast period. The artificial intelligence market is presumed to develop at a CAGR of over 55.9% from 2018 to 2026. The high implementation of artificial intelligence in several end-user verticals including, retail, automotive and healthcare is projected to boost the growth of the market over the forecast period. Several companies are making considerable investments to integrate artificial intelligence competencies into their portfolio of products. For instance, in 2016, SK Telecom and Intel Corporation signed an agreement for the development of the artificial intelligence-based vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology as well as video recognition.

For More Information About Artificial Intelligence Market @ https://www.polarismarketresearch.com/industry-analysis/artificial-intelligence-market/request-for-customization
verification

Is It You Or An ID Thief? How AI Uses Document Verification To Keep You Safe.

It’s a moment most people have experienced.

You’re required to show your ID for something and you wait as the person studies both your face and the photo on the driver’s license, passport, or another document, making sure you’re not an impersonator trying to pull a fast one.

These days, artificial intelligence is playing a role similar to that security person, with software that allows validation of IDs remotely through digital document verification. This way you can do business through your smartphone, and someone on the other end can make sure you’re who you say you are and that a thief hasn’t stolen your identity.

And that’s especially important at a time when identity theft has been on the rise, says Stephen Hyduchak, CEO of Aver (www.goaver.com), an identity-verification service.

“Fraudsters are getting creative, but so is technology,” Hyduchak says. “It’s important to keep up because there are so many ways to create fake documents that allow someone to claim to be you and maybe even get away with it.”

Hyduchak says there are a few categories of document fraud:

Illegitimate documents. These documents are completely false. They have characteristics such as missing holograms or other current standards that are essential parts of a legitimate version of that document.

False documents. This is a document that belongs to one person, but that another person tries to use in an effort to authenticate himself.

Modified documents. This is when an original document is altered. Hyduchak says the alterations can be caught with software that detects whether fonts and text match the originals.

How do fraudsters even get the ID documents to start with? Hyduchak says it’s a matter of data security breaches – and often a combination of more than one breach. He gives this example. Just recently, the cryptocurrency exchange Binance, using a third-party Know-Your-Customer (KYC) provider, was the victim of a hack that leaked over 10,000 photographs of purported Binance KYC data. This breach affected up to 60,000 people.

“On Binance, users buy and sell cryptocurrency, something that is privacy-centric by its very nature, but still vulnerable,” Hyduchak says. “Coupling leaks like this with major data breaches like Equifax and Target, our personal information can be manipulated for the fraud with some basic photoshop work.”

A digital verification process is one way to head off any subterfuge, Hyduchak says. For example, his company has a program that works this way: The user captures a picture of their ID or passport using their smartphone. The user then takes a selfie to verify they are the same person pictured on the ID or passport. Facial recognition software compares the images through algorithms.

“As time goes on,” Hyduchak says, “I think you are going to see digital facial checks become the standard for ID verification, and that will eliminate most types of fraud.”

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Stephen Hyduchak is the CEO of Aver (www.goaver.com), an identity-verification service. Hyduchak worked in corporate finance for companies such as PRA Health Sciences before finding the entrepreneur bug. He began working on media and design for small businesses, which led him to consulting projects in the blockchain space, and eventually to founding Aver.

logistics

Global Trade’s Annual Logistics Planning Guide Reveals the Year’s Top Trends

Sometimes buying your business into the latest trends isn’t the best idea. Saddled with high costs and incompatible programs, trendy new technology can often make business processes more difficult for your business, not less. But there are some industries where the latest really can be the greatest, and one of those industries is the logistics industry.

Let’s face it: Logistics make the world go round. Whether it’s shipping perishables to community markets or lifesaving machinery to medical clinics, there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of logistics providers. That’s why it often pays to rely on cutting-edge technology. From tracking and tracing to locating items in your warehouse, new technology can often get the job done faster and more accurately. Plus, with the growing e-commerce market, logistics is more important than ever before as businesses push to get their products into customers’ hands at the speed of retailers such as Amazon.

So, what’s on the horizon for the logistics industry this coming year? Here’s what’s on our radar—and should be on yours—for the best (and one troublesome) new innovations and trends in logistics in 2020.

LOGISTICS IT

When it comes to logistics, information technology (IT) may arguably be the most important innovation of 2020. That’s because without a solid tracking system in place you’re not only causing potential backlogs for your workers, but you could be causing frustration for your clients, too. After all, if your customer can’t see where their merchandise is in the supply chain, they may bring their business to someone else who can. This is where an excellent Warehouse Management System (WMS) comes in. Using RFID and GPS, warehouse management systems can now monitor and trace every piece of inventory in your warehouse, providing real-time data to both you and your customer.

Other systems expected to be used with increased frequency in the new year include order entry systems and transportation management systems (TMS).

But logistics IT isn’t just what the customer sees, or even what your employees interact with. It goes well beyond that. Logistics IT also encompasses the back end of your IT solutions—not just the IT product itself but also the customer support that goes along with it.

We all know the logistics industry doesn’t just run from nine to five. When there’s a problem like a software bug or outage, is your IT provider available to offer technical support when you need it? Does your provider strive to make software updates that are meaningful to your business, and that integrate seamlessly into your other systems? Does your provider notify you when there are new versions of your system that could benefit your business? These are all signs of a good IT provider—a trend you definitely don’t want to miss the boat (or train, plane or truck!) on.

Logistics providers are using the latest technology, such as Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) and Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), to satisfy ever-changing customer requirements. DHL Express introduced a fresh TC55 technology that works on the Android platform and is simple to use, as well as the navigation skills in the global positioning system (GPS).

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is another way technology is streamlining the logistics industry. Currently, the biggest benefit of AI is arguably its ability to automate many of the processes logistics providers provide every day, including repetitive tasks that exhaust human capital and don’t challenge workers. Though many workers worry that AI will someday replace human workers, currently the technology is actually assisting them.

Another use for AI in the logistics industry relates to the driving of vehicles. As many are aware, initiatives from companies like Google have in recent years invested time and resources into developing self-driving cars, i.e. autonomous vehicles. These vehicles may be manned by a human driver, but they allow the driver to take breaks from driving while still traveling. This in turn gets deliveries to their destinations quicker, a fact that is projected to save logistics providers a lot of money. In fact, according to Mckinsey, autonomous vehicles could save logistics providers up to 45 percent, a savings providers can then pass along to their clients. These savings could then be passed to the consumer in the form of lower prices or lower shipping rates.

ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS LOGISTICS

With many seaports developing green initiatives and land- and air-based logistics providers initiating a greater push for a reduced carbon footprint, 2020 is set to be a big year for reducing carbon emissions. Some land-based initiatives include more efficient route mapping, video conferencing and net-zero emissions.

Route mapping works by eliminating excess travel on longer routes. The idea is that a more direct route cuts fuel waste as well as carbon emissions. Video conferencing saves both money and the need for travel to meetings. As for net zero emissions, many logistics providers are investing in low or zero-emission vehicles and alternative fuels that emit less carbon into the air.

Logistics companies with warehousing services are also increasing their push toward a lower carbon footprint, using sustainable packaging and ramping up recycling efforts with the packing, shipping and packaging of products.

Maritime initiatives include the restoration and protection of wetlands as well as the planting of trees at some ports. Strategies also include the use of more efficient photosensitive lighting, such as the switch to LED lighting. Some ports have even switched over to the use of electric equipment instead of diesel fuel equipment, the establishment of fuel efficient requirements for ships which frequent the port and much more.

BLOCKCHAIN

If you’re in the logistics world, you’ve likely been hearing about blockchain for several years now. But what is it? Simply put, blockchain is a way of recording data which cannot be altered, using a technology called cryptology. Blockchain data is nearly unchangeable. The “chain” in blockchain refers to the chain of messages that originate from a single entry. To edit the chain, all members who posted to the chain must be willing to alter their own data to support the potentially edited data. This reduces the risk of that data being falsified or otherwise compromised along the way.

Blockchain data can be used to do everything from order tracking to payment issues. Blockchain also streamlines the way we communicate, reducing the need for time-consuming paperwork. Blockchain works in real-time, so shippers can trace every detail of their shipment as it progresses and make necessary adjustments to their route and load temperatures as needed. This can save time and money, preventing delays or rejected shipments.

Blockchain can also aid in financial decisions regarding fleet vehicles. Similar to a Carfax report, blockchain can show whether a pre-owned logistics vehicle has been maintained as well as the previous owner claims, and can help the potential buyer make decisions that could cost them—or save them—significantly down both the literal and figurative roads.

Indeed, blockchain has become so big that an organization has been founded to monitor the industry. The Blockchain in Transport Alliance, or BiTa, was founded to help advance the Bitchain industry, developing rules and regulations and providing education for new and veteran Bitchain users. The organization already boasts an impressive member list, including representatives of UPS and FedEx.

TECHNOMAX

In the maritime sector of the logistics industry, one revolutionary service that is “making waves” is TechnoMax, or TMX. TechnoMax works to streamline maritime operations by working with AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). The system provides risk and compliance data, app development, infrastructure development and data management. Some of TechnoMax’s capabilities include monitoring a ship’s emissions, analyzing cargo information and guiding navigation.

TRADE TARIFFS

Now for some bad news. With trade deals between the United States and China again delayed, there remains a lot of uncertainty among retailers and manufacturers. Though there is no crystal ball to predict the future or what it holds for these industries, the potential for raised prices on goods is of big concern. Price increases would inevitably be passed down to consumers, who could cut out or cut back on goods, causing sales to plummet. This could in turn negatively impact the logistics industry, as fewer products will be warehoused and transported.

For now, the industry seems to be holding its own, with some businesses preparing for the looming tariffs by shipping larger amounts now to avoid elevated costs later. Whether this bulking up will cause a dramatic drop in shipments in the first few months of 2020 remains to be seen.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

All things considered, 2020 seems to be gearing up to be a great year for the logistics industry, with many new technological and environmental advances on the horizon. From AI to blockchain, the industry is poised to become more efficient than ever, saving providers money which they can pass along to their clients, and in turn potentially to the consumer.

Even with the potential for steep tariffs on China (and vice versa) on the horizon, these positive advances should still make an impact on the industry in the coming year and decade.

quantam computing

GlobalData Discusses Quantam Computing and its Impact on Auto Manufacturing

As artificial intelligence continues making news headlines in a variety of industries, GlobalData experts released statements from Volkswagen’s Data Lab team lead, Dr. Marc Hilbert about the risks and opportunities presented. In his statements, Dr. Hilbert addresses specifics relating to quantam computing in the automobile manufacturing sector.

“Security is definitely necessary. I think it’s very important specifically for Volkswagen because I think if you’re not compliant, if you cannot say that our things are safe, you will lose the trust of the consumer. So compliance is something that we are working on also with machine learning, and anonymization, so hiding your personal data within the car. So there’s nobody who can say that this is you, but we still have enough information to understand.”

Quantam computing is on the radar for many industry players as a potential emerging trend. Technology innovations and game-changers alike pose unique sets of challenges and potential solutions, and of course, associated risks.

“Traffic optimization is one of the use cases we’re looking at in terms of quantum computing. Because we think that quantum computing will be one of the emerging technologies which will have a big step in terms of machine learning, in terms of data analysis, and so on. And there are companies like D wave, IBM and Google, which tried to build the computer. So this is one aspect to actually get closer to a solution,” he adds.

“The Volkswagen group is coming from a different point of view. What we try to do is find problems in the real world. What we have today with our customers is traffic jams. We tried to translate this kind of questions in a way that a quantum computer can understand it. And we try to bring those two things together to identify aspects where we can use quantum computing in the next step. So this is our task in the data lab,” Hilbert concluded.

To read the full article, please click here.

2020

Survey: Business Leaders Start 2020 with Lingering Concerns About Talent Shortages & Recession Risk

A new survey reveals that the world’s chief executives view the risk of a recession as their biggest external concern in 2020. Attracting and retaining talent ranks as their top internal concern. They also feel unsettled by trade uncertainty, political instability, and more intense competition from disruptive technologies. However,
they plan to counter such forces by developing more innovative cultures and new business models.

Conducted annually since 1999 by The Conference Board, this year’s survey gauged nearly 750 CEOs and nearly 800 other C-Suite executives from mainly four regions: Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the United States. As part of the survey, participants weighed in on which external and internal issues warrant the most immediate attention in 2020.

External Concerns in 2020

Recession fears top the list

Global: For the 2nd year in a row, CEOs and other C-Suite executives globally rank a recession as their top external worry
in the year ahead.

US: For US CEOs, a recession rose from being their 3rd biggest concern in 2019 to their top one in 2020. The issue surpassed cybersecurity, their top concern in 2019.

Elsewhere: A recession also tops the list of concerns of Chinese and European CEOs, and is the runner-up for Latin American and Japanese CEOs.

Widespread concern over trade uncertainty

Global: CEOs globally rank uncertainty about global trade as their 2nd biggest external worry in 2020.

US: It ranks as the 4th biggest worry of US CEOs, tied with its affiliate issue: global political instability.

China: Chinese CEOs rank trade uncertainty as their top worry, tied with their fear of a recession.

Latin America and Europe: CEOs there rank it 1st and 3rd, respectively.

Chinese CEOs feeling the effects of economic sanctions

China: Chinese CEOs rank the effects of economic sanctions as their 5th biggest external worry, tied with the issue of more demanding customers. Their concern about sanctions is the highest-ranking by any country by a big margin.

What it reveals about US-China trade tensions: The role technology plays in this conflict is deep and enduring. Tariffs are likely to be temporary and easily subject to negotiation, but technology blockades, via economic sanctions, are not.

Competition intensifies

Global: For CEOs globally, fiercer competition rose from being their 4th top external worry in 2019 to their 3rd in 2020.

US: For two years in a row, US CEOs cite the issue as their 2nd top external worry.

China: For Chinese CEOs, concerns about fiercer competition rose from being their 7th in 2019 to their 3rd in 2020.

Cybersecurity budgets increase, but strategy remains elusive

Bigger budgets: More than 70% of responding CEOs globally plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in 2020.

But unclear strategy: Almost 40% of responding CEOs globally say their organizations lack a clear strategy to deal with the financial and reputational impact of a cyber-attack or data breach.

Climate change heats up

Global: For 2020, CEOs globally ranked the impact of climate change on their business as 9th, up from 11th in 2019.

Driving the momentum: CEOs in Latin America (4th, up from 10th in 2019) and Europe (8th, up from 13th in 2019).

“The ongoing concerns about recession risk among business leaders reflect the slowing economy of the past year and the uncertainties about the outcome of the trade disputes and other policy concerns,” said Bart van Ark, Chief Economist at The Conference Board. “However, given a slightly better outlook for the global economy and an easing of trade tensions, we anticipate that a drumbeat of negative sentiment – which can become a self-fulling prophecy – can be avoided, and that we  will see more confidence about business prospects in 2020.”

Internal Concerns in 2020

The number-one priority: attracting and retaining top talent

-Widespread agreement: Regardless of a company’s location or size, attracting and retaining top talent ranks as the number-one internal stressor for CEOs and other C-Suite executives globally in 2020.

-What’s intensifying the talent battle? A tight labor market, among other issues. CEOs globally, for example, cite the tight labor market as their 5th biggest external worry in the year ahead.

Developing innovative products and cultures are a key focus

Create new business models because of disruptive technologies: CEOs and other C-suite executives globally rank it their 2nd top internal priority.

Create a more innovative culture: CEOs and other C-Suite executives globally rank it their 3rd top internal priority.

Widespread commitment to cultivating leaders for the future

Global: CEOs and other C-Suite executives globally rank developing “next-gen” leaders as their 4th top internal priority.

Japan: Japanese CEOs rank this issue as their number-one internal priority, ahead of all other internal issues.

Women C-Suite executives more concerned about equal pay for equal work

Women: Globally, implementing equal pay for equal work ranked as their 6th top internal priority.

Men: Globally, the issue ranked as their 15th top internal priority.

“The global challenge in acquiring and retaining talent requires companies to be more strategic – knowing not only what qualities and skills to recruit for, but also how to recruit more efficiently and effectively,” said Rebecca Lea Ray, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “To support such efforts, they can consider leveraging artificial intelligence, a valuable tool when used with the proper understanding and safeguards.”

Mature-Market CEOs vs Emerging-Market CEOs

The survey results reveal much agreement between CEOs in mature economies (436 respondents) and emerging markets (304 respondents). But, some stark differences exist when it comes to which issues they plan to prioritize in 2020.

3 External Differences

Tight labor market
-Mature-market CEOs rank the issue as their 3rd biggest external concern. Emerging-market CEOs rank it 10th.

Uncertainty about global trade
-Emerging-market CEOs rank the issue as their number-one external concern. Mature-market CEOs rank it 4th.

Declining trust in political and policy institutions
-Emerging-market CEOs rank the issue as their 5th top external concern. Mature-market CEOs rank it 8th.

3 Internal Differences

Create new business models because of disruptive technologies
-Emerging-market CEOs rank the issue as their 2nd top internal priority. Mature-market CEOs rank it 4th.

Manage mergers and acquisitions
-Mature-market CEOs rank the issue as their 7th top internal priority. Emerging-market CEOs rank it 12th.

Build a more inclusive culture
-Mature-market CEOs rank the issue as their 8th top internal priority. Emerging-market CEOs rank it 16th.

“When it comes to creating new business models because of disruptive technologies, there is more urgency among  emerging-market CEOs than those in more mature economies,” said Chuck Mitchell, Executive Director of Knowledge,  Content, and Quality at The Conference Board. “This should raise a warning flag about possible complacency considering the current speed of disruption. The truth is that, today, companies no longer enjoy the luxury of a decades-long lead time to adapt to the digital revolution.”

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Media can contact The Conference Board for a copy of the full survey results.

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, they
are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conferenceboard.org

Republished with permission