When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and distribution channels shifted as online sales soared, weaknesses within the supply chain were revealed. In response, IBM has launched its Sterling Inventory Control Tower, which is designed to “further help companies manage inventory and build resilient supply chains more effectively,” the company said.

IBM noted that many retailers and brands lack true, end-to-end inventory visibility as well as the “intelligence needed to effectively predict disruptions, optimize decision-making and mitigate the business impact.”

With IBM’s Sterling Inventory Control Tower, the AI-powered platform was developed to provide “insights to see inventory wherever it is, identify and understand the impact of external events to predict disruptions, and take actions based on playbook recommendations to mitigate the upstream and downstream effects.” In short, the technology allows for a “faster response” to market changes while also delivering an improved customer experience.

Jeanette Barlow, vice president of offering management at IBM Sterling, said the past few months “have shown us that what was once considered ‘good enough’ inventory management may no longer be sufficient. Even as businesses strive to reopen and emerge smarter, inventory remains dynamic because supply, demand and transportation capacity are in flux.

“As a result, some businesses may be losing sales, aggravating customers by over-promising, losing margins due to markdowns and expedited shipping charges, carrying excess safety stock, all while limiting their ability to enter new sales channels,” Barlow explained. “Enterprises should embrace advanced technologies such as AI to more effectively act on their inventory across all channels in near real-time, which can help mitigate fluctuations in demand and supply disruptions in order to create smarter, innovative and resilient supply chains.”

The capabilities of the platform include allowing companies to see inventory across the entire supply chain, and to correlate data “across silos and disparate systems to provide a single inventory view, while quickly detecting internal and external events that could impact inventory.”

IBM said by establishing end-to-end visibility across the supply chain “all the way from raw material availability and supplier order to the ‘last mile’ of customer delivery, businesses can track days of supply by product to customize safety stock reserves by location and reallocate inventory across locations and channels.”

The technology can also help by predicting potential supply chain disruptions and empower companies to respond to “unplanned events.” The platform features AI-powered virtual “resolution rooms” that can provide a “collaboration space that can help teams quickly convene and identify the root causes of supply chain disruptions and develop the right solutions,” IBM noted.

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