Procurement departments learned myriad lessons while navigating disrupted supply chains in 2020, with agility emerging as a critically important attribute for business survival. Many large enterprises that have traditionally been slower to respond to tectonic market changes sought technical solutions to supply their customers with the goods and services they required and alleviate pressure on overburdened sourcing teams.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, a May 2020 webinar held in partnership with Ardent Partners as part of The CPO Rising 2K20 Virtual Series saw members of the Keelvar team discuss how AI-driven Intelligent Automation has been hugely effective in supporting companies achieve much-needed speed and agility in their sourcing processes during such uncertain times, for which a sourcing optimization solution is a critical component.
But even before the pandemic, software solutions such as those offered by Keelvar have been helping procurement teams navigate issues including supplier capacity limitations, freight expense volatility, supply chain pinch points, and other obstacles that will still periodically resurface in the future beyond COVID-19.
Looking at the year ahead, a February 2021 report published by Ardent Partners outlining predictions for the procurement industry has echoed much of the discussion that took place during that webinar. That 2021 BIG Trends and Predictions Report notes opportunities for AI and smart automation in strategic sourcing among the areas where Chief Procurement Officers and their teams can focus on to have the most impact.
Research by Ardent Partners shows that 70% of all procurement teams have felt an "extraordinary" or "significant" impact from the pandemic, with pervasive uncertainty expected to remain a significant force throughout 2021. But one of the ‘big trends' that has been helping a growing number of procurement functions extract more value out of their processes has been the addition of user-friendly and accessible supply management tools to their technology infrastructure.
Described in the report as the "linchpin" to procurement operations, technology -- specifically digital, automated tools -- has been enabling fewer hands to transact greater volumes of tactical work, "which has allowed CPOs and teams to shift their focus to the strategic parts of the business, like relationship building and long-term planning."
At Keelvar, our customers have experienced similar benefits from implementing our Sourcing Optimizer and Intelligent Automation solutions. The latest in our Logistics Botline, an air freight bot built specifically to solve the complexities and capacity challenges associated with air freight logistics, has been helping blue-chip customers offload as much as 90% of their tactical sourcing processes. Similarly, our ocean freight automation solution launched in late 2020 has been championed by early adopters for generating time and productivity savings of up to 93%.
And Artificial Intelligence-powered technological innovations are expected to continue gaining traction in the procurement industry, with Ardent Partners predicting 2021 will be a historic year for AI-driven procurement solutions and the teams that use them.
“AI has quickly emerged as a core component in the development of next-generation supply management technologies, including eSourcing and advanced sourcing, eProcurement, contract management, and spend analytics,” reads the report. “Keep an eye on these tools.”