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Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are quickly becoming “the new normal.” Despite alarmist sci-fi predictions about AI from Elon Musk and the late Stephen Hawking, these innovations are set to transform the way wholesale distributors do business.

Machines with the ability to take on more intricate work tasks enable a new level of automation across all areas of business. These innovations are particularly valuable for wholesale distributors.

How? AI and ML are enabling wholesalers of all sizes, to harness computers to compete with and even surpass human abilities, like improving customer service, reducing costs, and improving up time through predictive maintenance.

In a recent Game Changers Radio Show, we had the opportunity to hear from three Wholesale Distribution Industry leaders including Sebastian Valencia, partner at Clarkston Consulting; Brian Everett, Industry solution principle for iTelligence; and Werner Baumbach, Solution Expert, SAP.

Werner Baumbach states, “Machine learning will assist in drawing conclusions or making sense of data, finding patterns, but it is combination of human and machine activities that make a final picture and then my belief is that in the end, it still will be a human that will determine the strategy. Leadership is a lot about emotion as well, and machines will at least in the foreseeable future not create that sort of emotion and passion.”

Those companies that are embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning are winning. Leading wholesale distributors are embracing in and launching pilots and considering what to do with the oceans of data they are swimming through.

“We are in a business environment where industry lines are blurring and businesses that were normally not your competitors are today or will be your competitors in the future. Those companies that are able to ideate, continue to learn and innovate will be the winners,” said Brian Everett, iTelligence.

Amazon continues to change the whole marketplace and the distribution of products is really forcing people to look at how they can compete with Amazon.

“I think that the human element really comes into the forefront of importance. Being creative, being compassionate, having some emotional intelligence… maybe the next AI is EI (emotional intelligence),” said Everett. “Being able to have is something that is going to be really the game-changer.”

Comments Baumbach, “I think that voice driven technology has the potential to take over personal interactions because it requires much less training, and consumers can be utilizing devices in the same way they would a person-to-person interaction.” He adds, “It is a different way off interacting with solutions. It provides a hands-free environment and if you think about it with Alexa or Syria or other digital assistants, even SAP co-pilot, we are already making first steps in that direction.”

“When we talk about machine learning through the lens of wholesale distributor in relation to artificial intelligence, it is important to take away the buzzwords and the acronyms to start thinking about what it really means for them,” said Sebastian Valencia. “Is it a cash application? Is it a way to prevent invoice fraud? Is that a way to automate operations within the four walls of a distribution center which is highly intensive for the wholesale distributors? Is it a better way to predict, reroute deliveries and optimize and that number stops on the route? The clarification is important and then translating those very sophisticated terms into normal business terms and then connect them to value is going to help us drive growth and adoption across the industry.”

Successful disruptive companies are driven by data and insights. This mindset demands relentlessly measuring, monitoring, predicting, and acting on the pulse of business, in a continuous, automated manner, using new-generation technologies. Your enterprise can identify and capitalize on untapped opportunities, expose hidden risks, and automate knowledge work by leveraging Big Data and the IoT – all in real time – with the power of machine learning.

Machine learning is the core of artificial intelligence (AI). It’s a whole new breed of software that continuously learns and improves, every time you feed in new data, without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning has the power to access, analyze, and find patterns

in Big Data in a way that is beyond any human capabilities.

For more information about how SAP can help wholesale distributors continuously monitor data and make precise, intelligent predictions has a massive impact on business success, download the CEO Perspective.
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