Better Together: How AI and Social Media Can Be a Supply Chain Manager’s Best Friend

Supply chain managers have one of the most challenging yet integral jobs in our global economy: juggling a variety of data streams to make sure people and materials get to where they need to go.

The value of this data is instrumental in making sure disruptions don’t become full-fledged disasters that negatively impact market share, brand perception, and stock price. Social media data, along with critical tools that identify and disseminate social data, are becoming vital to supply chain managers looking to stay ahead of breaking events and limit disruption.

Last summer, Hurricane Harvey showcased social media as a critical data source for first responders and supply chain managers alike. The closing of the Port of Houston was announced on social media, which meant supply chain managers were able to alter their routes to avoid unnecessary disruptions impacting shipping, rail, and trucking providers.

The use case for social media has significantly evolved as supply chain managers are using AI and complex algorithms to stay informed of real-time information. Receiving information in real-time—ahead of major news channels—helped them divert arrangements and minimize risks at a time when the entire transportation industry was scrambling to reroute cargo and establish alternate supply lines.

Here are some additional ways leveraging social data through AI helps supply chain managers.

Avoiding unnecessary exceptions to increase logistical efficiency

Exceptions are a regular occurrence in supply chains. Utilizing AI and machine learning to track social media can help managers identify and resolve potential exceptions early before they become major issues.

During Hurricane Maria, pharmaceutical companies were put to the test in Puerto Rico. By staying apprised of weather reports and breaking news sourced from social media and identified through complex social alerting tools, pharmaceutical companies in Puerto Rico were able to procure duplicate generators and install temporary protections on their facilities in advance of Maria’s arrival.

AstraZeneca forecasted no interruption in supply or security after moving core production to other countries, while Eli Lilly launched a disaster recovery plan as the storm hit. These operations planned for the storm’s maximum potential and were as prepared as possible.

Putting the right people/materials in the right places

With the bevy of information available on social media during a breaking news event, supply chain managers can quickly and effectively move human capital and resources into the places where they can be most efficient.

For example, during the Mexico earthquakes last September, a consumer electronics manufacturer had a large contingent of employees in town for a major sales event along with extensive local staff. The client’s manager of enterprise risk and security started getting alerts on the earthquake hours before major news sources picked up the story, allowing him to quickly locate all local and traveling employees, make sure they were safe and route them, as necessary, to temporary housing situations.

Mitigating Risk Exposure

One of the most important tenets of supply chain and logistics is managing risk. Since risk is constantly evolving, supply chain managers need to thoroughly study the landscape of the communities and shipping lines they cover via social media to prevent disruption and gain a competitive advantage in the global market.

For example, a major biotechnology company used a technology platform and alerts to mitigate risk and stay ahead of breaking news in real-time during December’s wildfires in California. The platform allowed the company to identify threats and manage incidents, easily assess the credibility of online sources, and seamlessly integrate with its existing data streams. This information allowed supply chain managers at the biotech company to properly manage risk and adjust supply chain lines to keep employees and materials safe.

Social media is no longer just for likes and shares. Using AI and extensive datasets, supply chain managers can stay ahead of breaking events to make the most informed decisions to help keep their products and people safe and secure.

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