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Exclusive: Supply chain expert warns of AI lag, risks being left behind

Exclusive: Supply chain expert warns of AI lag, risks being left behind
Exclusive: Supply chain expert warns of AI lag, risks being left behind

The supply chain industry is a complex logistics sector, one which trailblazing expert Sofia Rivas Herrera believes needs plenty of work when it comes to addressing its environmental sustainability and AI technology shortcomings. 

In an exclusive interview with Herrera, Locate2u dissects the industry’s pressing challenges. From navigating the Red Sea crisis to her bold call for an AI leap and a resounding demand for sustainability. 

Her official title is analytical business consultant who drives supply chain optimization. But to many, she’s a supply chain ambassador and leading voice on social platforms, calling for reform and bold changes. 

Herrera is a qualified industrial engineer; however, she changed course after being exposed to the “exciting and thrilling world of manufacturing and operations.

“I came very close to where the action happened,” and that’s how she moved to sales and operations planning in retail and e-commerce.

She spends her days helping with network design and optimization, looking at the entire network from a different angle – finding ways to improve it in terms of cost or CO2 emission reduction.

Red Sea crisis builds resilience in the supply chain

Herrera believes that the focus is now on “shortening the supply chain” process to reduce the risks of long-distance transporting amid this ongoing crisis in the Read Sea

But is this a good idea? “I think that has brought us to what we are seeing in nearshoring, looking for additional facilities from where to source your product.”

Conversely, this crisis presents Mexico and Latin American countries with unique opportunities to “step up and provide solutions.”

Herrera advises companies to review their portfolio and find their seller products or even find ways to introduce new products to the market “in a faster but more efficient way.” She believes this can be done with “more neutral packaging so that the launch is faster.”

It’s all about building resilience to the type of changes. If the challenge is the Red Sea today, a new crisis will occur in the next six months. 

Snail pace AI-powered logistics 

“I think AI is not moving fast enough in our industry within the supply chain,” says Herrera. 

There are legitimate concerns about the safe use of technology, which could impact intellectual property and compromise internal information once shared with artificial intelligence (AI). Herrera acknowledges these risks and the fine line however, she believes playing it too safe is also not helping. “I think we need to be more agile in implementing and less afraid of what AI can do in our industry.”

Herrera believes there are tons of potential for the use of AI to evolve the industry at a rapid pace. “Especially in forecasting and planning. We’re not jumping into it because we’re still waiting on regulations or perhaps waiting on someone who has already tested it and see if it works or not.” 

However, she believes that when policies are in place to ensure safety, “it would be too late for us (to catch up).” She challenges the industry to take a “leap of faith and experiment with [AI-powered supply chain]. Otherwise, I think we’ll be left behind.”

On a personal level, she wants to help companies optimize their supply chain and wishes she could use AI more in her own career. She’s currently doing a course in AI to help her “stay ahead” with the technology.

Sustainability lags in the supply chain industry

Lately, there has been a strong focus and emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility in the corporate sector. Herrera believes the supply chain industry is “lagging behind” in understanding their impact. “That’s something we have not been good at as an industry.

While some companies, like Amazon, focus on sustainability with their transportation or packaging, others are profit-focused. 

With a lack of legislation to hold those not complying accountable, it’s hard to ensure the industry standards improve. Herrera is calling for standardized reporting of these ill practices in her industry.

“There are different ways of reporting our CO2 emissions or water usage. Overall, we need to start sticking to some kind of standard.”

To measure companies’ sustainable outcomes, Herrera wants them to track their performance. This, she suggests, could help business partners know who is doing better than others over a certain period of time. 

Some regulations could be enforced soon. In Europe, consultation is at an advanced stage to be finalized.

Herrera challenges the status quo

Herrera continues to advocate for a future of resilience and sustainability in the supply chain sector. While the Red Sea crisis, AI shortcomings, and sustainability inability may be formidable challenges, they remain opportunities for transformation and growth. 

While Herrera calls for the industry to embrace, adapt, and lead much faster, she also doesn’t want it to harm the environment. 

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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