The role of AI in powering a sustainable future
By Will Dutton, Director of Manufacturing at Peak
Over the last decade, sustainability has increasingly become an important part of our lives. This has been demonstrated recently by the UK Government, with the Prime Minister pledging a Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution to help tackle sustainability issues.
As humans, we are driven by the need to sustain a number of different things, such as our relationships, local and global economies, our livelihoods and the world we live in. We see the act of sustainable living encouraged and reinforced in multiple ways, beginning with the mantra to ‘Reduce, Re-use and Recycle’ that is taught to us from a young age. It has become apparent that regardless of the person or organisation, anyone can have a unique and significant impact in creating a more sustainable future.
We’ve established that humans can make a significant impact, but what role does AI have to play in a sustainable future – and how can businesses leverage the technology as part of their sustainability initiatives?
What does sustainability truly mean? When discussing sustainability, the environment is usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the definition of the word has changed significantly over the years as global priorities have shifted. We’ve only recently begun to accept the following definition: creating lasting and efficient methods through which to live our lives in order to maintain our world for future generations – be that environmentally, economically and socially.
As ever, the ability to adapt and be flexible to what’s happening around us has been key. For many retailers, for example, COVID-19 has seen a sea-change in product buying, making it harder to accurately forecast demand for stock. This has meant that many brands have been trying to move around unwanted stock in a desperate attempt to free-up space in the supply chain, remain profitable and be more efficient.
Decisions on forecasting, customer experience and sales all require the expertise of people but if those decisions are based on human judgement alone, then it runs the risk that there will be inefficiencies that hamper the business, and this can have negative financial and environmental knock-on effects. Automating the data-sifting process can make a big impact here.
Here’s how AI can help We live in an era in which we must develop and leverage technology in order to leave our world in a better place than when we came into it. Through collaboration and innovation, we can deploy the right technological solutions to tackle these issues in the most efficient, agile way possible.
There are three key areas we’re seeing AI help to drive sustainability:
- Working towards more complex sustainability goals
Businesses are aligning themselves with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to do their bit for the environment. Practically speaking, meeting these targets can be tough when approached without the use of technology.
Deploying AI can be highly effective in achieving these goals. By having a 360-degree view of your business and unifying what was previously siloed, AI and machine learning models can account for far more complexities than the human brain can manage.
For example, businesses could deploy an AI solution to balance availability with inventory levels and working capital. Or the goal could be to reduce costs, grow profits and increase efficiency without impacting customer service. By using the intelligence of AI as the foundation for making business decisions, organisations can achieve and exceed their sustainability goals even as the world around us changes.
- Achieving these goals in the most effective way
While it is common for two companies to have the same goals, the solution to achieving these goals may vary considerably.
Since every organisation is underpinned by unique data, the best approach to achieving strategic goals will be unique. For instance, a 5 per cent reduction in wastage might be best tackled through a reduction in waste using dynamic inventory levels and intelligent replenishment, or a reduction in returns by better understanding each customer. A reduction in carbon emissions may be best achieved with logistics optimisation, or may be best achieved by optimising production scheduling to minimise production time. AI allows businesses to find the best solution and act on it with speed.
- Being dynamic and adaptable as the world changes
It is important to note that some things just can’t be predicted, and the world is constantly evolving. This makes planning even more challenging.
It can be difficult account for changes in priorities and the world as things change. Therefore, the best way to have this impact will constantly change as customers, processes and the environment around us fluctuates.
Utilising AI allows organisations to keep abreast of changes, respond rapidly, and ensure businesses are always achieving their targets in the most optimal way. If you have a flexible technology which helps you to react rapidly and is accurately underpinned by your unique data, it no longer matters if you can’t ‘see into the future’.
AI has already made a profound impact on a range of sectors by implementing solutions which are faster, more efficient and more intelligent. Every business is unique, and so is their sustainability targets. However, technology can ensure that these goals are achieved and exceeded, helping to drive truly sustainable growth.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Peak .
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