Supply Chain

Meet Watson: Your Supply Chain Analyst, Advisor, and Assistant

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Yesterday, we IBMers unveiled Watson Supply Chain to the world – and we’re pretty giddy about it! (Hopefully, after reading this post, you will be, too.)

Perhaps it’s true that we Big Blue employees are rather smitten with our snazzy, new pal Watson. But who is he really? And will he make any difference in your daily life?

Who or what is Watson anyway?

By now, you’ve probably caught a Watson commercial or two (the Frank Abagnale, Stephen King, and Star Wars ones are my favorites) or maybe you espied his on-the-ground insights at this year’s U.S. Open. Or perhaps you witnessed Watson stun the competition on Jeopardy!

But maybe you haven’t – or have a fuzzy understanding at best. (If so, I can certainly relate. I joined IBM in January, and only now have a decent grasp on wondrous Watson.)

In short, Watson is technology, but a very special type: He understands, reasons, learns, and even interacts just like we humans do. It’s why Watson is often referred to as cognitive computing. And if you’re wondering about his masculine moniker, Watson takes after IBM’s first CEO, Thomas J. Watson.

Will Watson make a tangible difference in your daily life?

The simple answer is yes. When you begin to consider the many practical applications of Watson, it’s truly dazzling. To see how Watson can add value, collaborate with him as you would with any esteemed colleague.

“The promise of this cognitive era is quite simple: man and machine working together to create knowledge from data and enhance human expertise,” remarked Kareem Yusuf, IBM Commerce VP of Offering Management and Development, during his day-in-the-life-of-a-practitioner presentation at World of Watson yesterday.

To visualize this more concretely, let’s take a peek at one of the scenarios highlighted in his session – inclement weather potentially wreaking havoc on a retailer’s revenue targets.

Shari, an industrious supply chain manager, is sitting at her desk. She’s going about her workday when she receives an alert from Watson Supply Chain Insights. The notification informs her that a massive snowstorm is about to hit the area surrounding a critical supplier. Her team had placed a substantial order with this vendor for two types of watches (key products in their holiday season strategy). The approaching storm puts delivery of the items – and revenue targets – at serious risk.

Watson Supply Chain Insights: A view of aggregated KPIs, mobile alerts, analytics, and social collaboration tools

Watson Supply Chain Insights: A view of aggregated KPIs, mobile alerts, analytics, and social collaboration tools

Shari sees there’s an 85% probability of impact, yielding 1.2 meters of expected snow. She begins to doubt the supplier’s ability to ship the watches as scheduled. Indeed, the situation looks bleak. Watson cautions there will likely be a three-day delay in delivery and nearly $4.5 million in lost revenue, which is obviously not a sound option. What now? Time to investigate a plan B.

This is Watson, your dedicated analyst.

With the click of a button (a new spin on the panic button?), Shari opens a Resolution Room online where the team – including Watson – gather to discuss the situation and explore alternate paths to success. In the process, Watson recommends the right team best suited to address, and circumvent, the impending crisis.

After all key people join the room, Shari fills everyone in on the brewing disaster and its nightmarish impact on revenue. The team need to investigate other suppliers stat, but there are literally thousands in the database. Where to begin? Instinctively, Shari asks Watson, in plain language: “Which other suppliers compare with our main supplier?” Instantaneously, Watson responds with two suppliers who have the watches in question, along with helpful specifics such as supplier location and pricing.

Reassured that options are indeed available, the team presses forward. After the team selects the supplier, Shari asks Watson to reassess the outlook based on this new order. Again, he immediately replies, stating that this new plan will avoid any delays and cost increases. Attentive to the situation at hand, Watson also volunteers that he’s recalculated the probability of the storm hitting the original supplier, and it’s risen to 86%.

Equipped with this visibility and intelligence, the team are confident they should switch suppliers.

This is Watson, your trusted advisor.

All that’s left is for Shari to pull the trigger. She asks Watson to purchase an order with the new supplier and cancel the existing order with the original supplier. Again, Watson comes back in a flash, having executed her action items, responding with the simple words: “Okay, done.”

This is Watson, your personal assistant.

If you often ponder questions like:

  • How do I guarantee supply?
  • How do I achieve greater visibility?
  • How can I take action against unforeseen events and potential supply chain interruptions?

Then it’s time to pose a new query: What would your day be like with Watson?

Watch the story, outlined above, come to life:

I’m guessing you can envision more than one scenario where Watson would be a star addition to your team – and hopefully these possibilities are exhilarating.

Watch the “A Day in the Life of the Practitioner with Watson Supply Chain, Watson Commerce and Watson Marketing” session – straight from World of Watson:

We also invite you to check out the Watson Supply Chain site, which illuminates other use cases and suggests steps on how to get started, and these two blog posts from IDC:

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