Keelvar Showcases a Sourcing Bot in Advance of the Human+Machine Contest

Alan Gleeson

April 6, 2022

View the Prequel on Demand

On December 3rd, Keelvar hosted a prequel event in the lead-up to the groundbreaking Human+Machine Contest due to take place in 2021.

The Human+Machine Contest will test how one of Keelvar's sourcing bots designed for intelligent sourcing automation fares against an expert human buyer in a bidding event (Ocean Freight sourcing) under real-life conditions. The Human+Machine Prequel was designed to whet the appetite of attendees and sought to provide further context for the event next March.

The theme of the event was the "Future of Procurement and Sourcing" and sought to explore the future of sourcing in light of the advances in recent years in the growth of intelligent automation solutions such as those offered by Keelvar. The event also consisted of a "Future of Work" presentation by former World Chess Champion and current human rights activist, Garry Kasparov, followed by a discussion with a panel of strategic sourcing experts.

Introduction from Alan Holland

Alan Holland, the Founder and CEO of Keelvar opened proceedings with an outline as to why he decided to run the contest. He described how the contest would operate, before going on to describe the rules of engagement and discuss the broader theme of automation and the future of work.

Key points included:

  • Sourcing AI and automation is not a zero-sum game - it is additive
  • It is not an experiment; it already exists and is used widely
  • Leading international brands including Samsung, Coca Cola and Siemens are already deploying sourcing automation
  • Sourcing automation is designed to replace manual tactical buying activities
  • It is also designed to assist rather than to replace jobs, freeing up time for more strategic initiatives

He concluded his section by introducing the Judges for the Human + Machine event in March.

Keynote from Garry Kasparov

Next up was a specially recorded keynote by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Kasparov is known for his deep thinking on how automation will impact the workplace of the future and was thus perfectly placed to weigh in on the debate. The fact that Kasparov had gone up against IBM’s Deep Blue computer in two classic chess matches in the 1990s added to the occasion bookending the Human versus Machine debate.

In his presentation, Kasparov argued that AI should be viewed through the prism of augmentation and collaboration and not a competition, a view shared by all at Keelvar. 

In an entertaining speech, Kasparov argued that automating the mundane enables us to be more creative and ambitious and that it frees us up to be ‘more human’.

He concluded by offering his key points on automation:

Panel Discussion

Following the keynote, Alan Holland chaired a panel discussion featuring strategic sourcing exports Ian Harmon and Lars Jensen.

Ian Harmon is a Commercial Director with over 20 years' experience within global logistics and supply chain, working with recognized brands such as Maersk Logistics, Damco, and Kuehne & Nagel.

Lars Jensen is the CEO and Partner of SeaIntelligence Consulting. He has 19 years of experience within the container shipping industry, with the likes of Maersk Line, Maersk Logistics, and The Containership Company.

During the discussion, the panelists discussed Kasparov's keynote and its conclusions. Harmon stressed the importance of not neglecting relationships, arguing that they were crucial alongside what AI can do.

So what other benefits can result from having more free time?

Holland went onto argue that:

"Given that there's time freed up on some of the more mundane operational tasks that used to interrupt people’s daily work schedule so frequently, they can start to engage with suppliers and build relationships and spend more time talking to suppliers and discovering innovation.

“If you are working in innovation management and you want to understand what new services or products suppliers are trying to bring to market, you can spend more time talking to them about what their future plans are.

“You can also start to spend more time on risk management, so you can start to dive in and do more research on which suppliers are in trouble or which suppliers are growing and offer new opportunities for you.

“Much of that research can only be done manually, so if you want to be strategic in your role, I'd say building supplier relationships and even coaching suppliers on how to get better and to provide you with, with a better product or service, and there's more time for that."

Preview of Keelvar’s Intelligent Sourcing Automation Bot

The event concluded with a look at Keelvar’s intelligent sourcing bot in action: 

In summary, the Prequel event was a sharp reminder that automation is a positive development for most. As Garry Kasparov noted: “We aren’t being replaced, we’re being promoted. 

“After all, I was the first knowledge worker to have my job threatened by a machine. And I did alright.” 

The Human+Machine Contest will take place in 2021. Register for the event.
View the Prequel on Demand.

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