Bottom Line: Knowledge-sharing networks have been improving supply chain collaboration for decades; it’s time to enhance them with AI and extend them to resellers to revolutionize channel selling with more insights.
The greater the accuracy and speed of supply chain-based data integration and knowledge, the greater the accuracy of custom product orders. Add to that the complexity of selling CPQ and product configurations through channels, and the value of using AI to improve knowledge sharing networks becomes a compelling business case.
Why Channels Need AI-Based Knowledge Sharing Networks Now
Automotive, consumer electronics, high tech, and industrial products manufacturers are combining IoT sensors, microcontrollers, and modular designs to sell channel-configurable smart vehicles and products. AI-based knowledge-sharing networks are crucial to the success of their next-generation products. Likewise, to sell to any of these manufacturers, suppliers need to be pursuing the same strategy. AI-based services, including Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Voice and others, rely on knowledge-sharing networks to collaborate with automotive supply chains and strengthen OEM partnerships. The following graphic reflects how successful Amazon’s Alexa Automotive OEM sales team is at using knowledge-sharing networks to gain design wins across their industry.
The following are a few of the many reasons why creating and continually fine-tuning an AI-based knowledge-sharing network is an evolving strategy worth paying attention to:
- Supply chains are the primary source of knowledge that must permeate an organization’s structure and channels for the company to stay synchronized to broader market demands. For CPQ channel selling strategies to thrive, they need real-time pricing, availability, available-to-promise, and capable-to-promise data to create accurate, competitive quotes that win deals. The better the supplier collaboration across supply chains and with channel partners, the higher the probability of selling more. A landmark study of the Toyota Production System by Professors Jeffrey H Dyer & Kentaro Nobeoka found that Toyota suppliers value shared data more than cash, making knowledge sharing systems invaluable to them (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000).
- Smart manufacturing metrics also need to be contributing real-time data to knowledge sharing systems channel partners use, relying on AI to create quotes for products that can be built the fastest and are the most attractive to each customer. Combining manufacturing’s real-time monitoring data stream of ongoing order progress and production availability with supply chain pricing, availability, and quality data all integrated to a cloud-based CPQ platform gives channel partners what they need to close deals now. AI-based knowledge-sharing networks will link supply chains, manufacturing plants, and channel partners to create smart factories that drive more sales. According to a recent Capgemini study, manufacturers are planning to launch 40% more smart factories in the next five years, increasing their annual investments by 1.7 times compared to the previous three years, according to their recent Smart factories @ scale Capgemini survey. The following graphic illustrates the percentage growth of smart factories across key geographic regions, a key prerequisite for enabling AI-based knowledge-sharing networks with real-time production data:
- By closing the data gaps between suppliers, manufacturing, and channels, AI-based knowledge-sharing networks give resellers the information they need to sell with greater insight. Amazon’s Alexa OEM marketing teams succeeded in getting the majority of design-in wins with automotive manufacturers designing their next-generation of vehicles with advanced electronics and AI features. The following graphic from Dr. Dyer’s and Nobeoka’s study defines the foundations of a knowledge-sharing network. Applying AI to a mature knowledge-sharing network creates a strong network effect where every new member of the network adds greater value.
- Setting the foundation for an effective knowledge sharing network needs to start with platforms that have AI and machine learning designed in with structure that can flex for unique channel needs. There are several platforms capable of supporting AI-based knowledge-sharing networks available, each with its strengths and approach to adapting to supply chain, manufacturing, and channel needs. One of the more interesting frameworks not only uses AI and machine learning across its technology pillars but also takes into consideration that a company’s operating model needs to adjust to leverage a connected economy to adapt to changing customer needs. BMC’s Autonomous Digital Enterprise (ADE) is differentiated from many others in how it is designed to capitalize on AI and Machine Learning’s core strengths to create innovation ecosystems in a knowledge-sharing network. Knowledge-sharing networks thrive on continuous learning. It’s good to see major providers using adaptive and machine learning to strengthen their platforms, with BMC’s Automated Mainframe Intelligence (AMI) emerging as a leader. Their approach to using adaptive learning to maintain data quality during system state changes and link exceptions with machine learning to deliver root cause analysis is prescient of where continuous learning needs to go. The following graphic explains the ADE’s structure.
Knowledge-sharing networks have proven very effective in improving supply chain collaboration, supplier quality, and removing barriers to better inventory management. The next step that’s needed is to extend knowledge-sharing networks to resellers and enable knowledge sharing applications that use AI to tailor product and service recommendations for every customer being quoted and sold to. Imagine resellers being able to create quotes based on the most buildable products that could be delivered in days to buying customers. That’s possible using a knowledge-sharing network. Amazon’s success with Alexa design wins shows how their use of knowledge-sharing systems helped to provide insights needed across automotive OEMs wanted to add voice-activated AI technology to their next-generation vehicles.
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Capgemini Research Institute, Smart factories @ scale: Seizing the trillion-dollar prize through efficiency by design and closed-loop operations, 2019.
Columbus, L, The 10 Most Valuable Metrics in Smart Manufacturing, Forbes, November 20, 2020
Jeffrey H Dyer, & Kentaro Nobeoka. (2000). Creating and managing a high-performance knowledge-sharing network: The Toyota case. Strategic Management Journal: Special Issue: Strategic Networks, 21(3), 345-367.
Myers, M. B., & Cheung, M. S. (2008). Sharing global supply chain knowledge. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(4), 67.
Wang, C., & Hu, Q. (2020). Knowledge sharing in supply chain networks: Effects of collaborative innovation activities and capability on innovation performance. Technovation, 94, 102010.
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