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GPT Technology Is Unlocking The Future

Written by Al-Azhar Khalfan

ChatGPT and other digital technologies are allowing supply chain leaders to envision a future never thought possible. Realizing a digital future starts with leadership.

I had another topic in mind for my column this month, but I couldn’t speak about anything else while ChatGPT is taking the world by storm. The fourth version of the Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT) was launched this month, which as I understand is capable of more complex discussions.

As a leader of one of Canada’s largest associations for supply chain, the first thing that comes to my mind is, ‘what does it mean for supply chain professionals?’

I want to mention a quote from American futurist and writer, Alvin Toffler, which alludes to the fact that growth in the 21st Century is determined by one’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. This technology is a call to all of us to do just that. Regardless of what profession we are in, it is time to embrace this future, flex our skills, and optimize the results we get from this technology. It is more important than ever to learn how to make technology work for us, not the other way round.

While it is too early to pinpoint the exact functions and areas where ChatGPT will be a gamechanger, it is not far-fetched to say that functions like forecasting, RFP development, and supply chain analytics will soon witness massive change. This will be a huge shift. In my discussion with Jason Wight, CIO & SVP-Innovations, Ontario Power Generation, he says “We have barely scratched the surface and you could almost double the size of your organization, and still won’t have enough people to adopt all the opportunities. There’s just so many opportunities with this technology.”

To me, this is an opportunity for supply chain leaders to envision a digital future and lead the process of digital transformation and innovation. It will enable supply chain professionals to build new skillsets that complement the enormous automation that is about to happen. It will also empower them to do their jobs effectively while investing more time in operational efficiency and strategic delivery.

AI promises the power to enable real-time, proactive, and analytical management of the end-to-end digital supply chain by driving predictive analytics, risk management, and decision making in the control tower of the future. The current manifestation of AI is ChatGPT, and while it has some limitations, it will help inform supply chain leaders and shape the paradigms of what the digital future can be.

Any limitations to ChatGPT, or any technology, will be improved and overcome in time. For instance, the information that ChatGPT is educated on is only currently updated as of 2021. ChatGPT can be inaccurate despite its responses sounding very authoritative. But that is no reason to avoid using the technology. ChatGPT and other digital technologies can inspire supply chain leaders to envision a future not yet pondered or considered possible. But it all starts with leadership.

“Supply chain has to focus on leadership, just like it has, just like finance has and so have some other functions who may have operated in silos in the past. Everyone is changing so fast, that the only way you can be successful is if you focus on the leadership part and understanding the humanistic part of this tech only comes to fruition when we are all working together to get the best out of tech” says Wight.

Supply chain is the link that will connect all functions and break down all organizational silos and intraorganizational operational barriers. This requires a focus on change leadership, as well as on technology, because without people at the top championing it, any efforts towards change will fail.

This is an opportunity for supply chain leaders to orchestrate within their organizations a change in process while advocating for the efficient use of automation through AI. Currently, there may be some informed concern about losing jobs to ChatGPT, Bard and other AI tools in the future. But it’s imperative for leaders to help employees see that these tools only work efficiently through clean data, and humans with prompt engineering, and the ability to set up the right algorithm. All of this continues to require human supervision, knowledge, judgement, and the ability to ask the right questions.

Technologies such as AI and ChatGPT will create higher-valued and more intellectually rewarding jobs. This will move supply chain away from more manual and transactional activities – the jobs of the past – to the much more knowledge-based jobs necessary to create and realize the future digital supply chain. As someone who is a not a technology expert, but rather an enthusiast, this technology seems like an opportunity for supply chain professionals to deliver better on their mandate.

Supply chain leadership will shape the future. No other function is at the epicentre of all of these technologies and how they will be used going forward. Supply chain’s ability to orchestrate a digital future and synchronize the creation of the digital supply chain will define how all organizations, institutions, and industries operate for decades to come.

Al-Azhar Khalfan is President and CEO of the National Institute of Supply Chain Leaders (NISCL).

Email: [email protected]