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How AI revolutionises procurement

AI – a word that polarises

Artificial intelligence – this word is currently on everyone’s lips. AI is often mentioned in the same breath as digitisation, automation and optimisation. In the 21st century, there is hardly a sphere of our life in which AI does not play a role. You find that hard to believe?

 

AI is everywhere

In medicine, AI is mainly used in diagnostics and pharmaceutical research. AI helps lawyers analyse files. In marketing, AI is often found in the form of social bots and chatbots. In computer and parlor games, AI controls so-called non-player characters or completely replaces human players. Numerous novels and films have long dealt with the question of what happens when machines are equipped with artificial intelligence. A dystopian future is often portrayed in this context, in which machines enslave people. Researchers, on the other hand, have succeeded in training neural networks to produce works of art in the style of well-known artists. Furthermore, AI is used in search engines, machine translations, handwriting, speech, image and face recognition, self-driving vehicles, humanoid robots and in many other areas of application. In addition, a number of research areas and disciplines such as philosophy, neurology, mathematics, logic, politics, communication science and linguistics deal with the meanings, potentials and dangers of AI.

 

AI in business

However, especially in the business world, AI is playing an increasingly important role. This becomes particularly evident as soon as you look at how many software providers offer products that (supposedly) work with AI in some way. Most of the time, however, it comes down to announcements or explanations of what AI should be able to do at some point. A lot of effort and (learning) experience is required to make AI practical. As a company, you have to be clear about a few things if you want to avoid using AI merely as a buzzword. AI is not an end in itself. It has to work where it can be proven to generate enormous, significant time and cost advantages and accelerate B2B communication. You have to start with the specific available AI tools in order to make processes more effective and efficient through useful complementary techniques.

 

AI in operational purchasing

Operational purchasing, for example, is predestined for this. The reason: Very often, there is still a predominantly manual process chain with many error-prone activities. The following activities are often still carried out “by hand”: receiving and checking supplier self-reports, sending inquiries to suppliers, getting quotes, sending orders, entering incoming customer orders, checking, comparing and entering incoming supplier order confirmations, dispatching notifications or delivery notes as well as supplier invoices, processing attachments to documents (drawings, certificates, etc.). The pressure on purchasing is increasing. The effort for manual operational processes increases exponentially with the number of document flows or transactions and the number of suppliers. This is where AI comes in! It generates enormous added value – if it effectively to leads to automation, simplification and acceleration in B2B communication. AI can support the exchange of information and at the same time relate content. During processing, it imitates the human behaviour of those involved in the process. In operational procurement, this applies to the extraction of data, the validation of information, the comparison of data and information as well as the further processing or transfer of the correct information to the downstream company systems. With the AI-based solution from Netfira, for example, orders, order confirmations, delivery schedules, invoices and other documents can be automatically exchanged and processed between manufacturers and customers or suppliers – in real time and bidirectionally.

 

AI has to learn

Like humans, AI also has to learn. The learning effect increases proportionally with the data volumes supplied. The more complex, the better and the more transaction volume, the more accurate the result. Once you have taught the AI to read, it can then read any number of books in any language. Ideal combination – just like Netfira does it: AI is “coupled” to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform. This means that, for the first time, unstructured data can also be harmonised in free texts or documents such as order confirmations and customer orders. Deviating terms in supplier documents, ambiguous units of measurement or rare languages are no longer a problem, as the AI is constantly learning. Manual interventions are no longer necessary. In addition, AI is the future for connecting business partners. All important suppliers, including the small ones, can already be connected quickly and easily with the AI-based solution from Netfira.

 

Conclusion

Nowadays, AI, digitisation and automation often belong together in a company. If purchasing and sales are busy realigning operational activities and implementing new processes, now could be the right time to start AI projects.

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