Maybe the term AI conjures up synthetic human intelligence for you. Or perhaps it brings to mind a marketing term you’ve seen sprinkled liberally throughout marketing content but never fully understood.

In reality, AI’s many different flavors and promises make for a complicated story.

So what exactly is AI? And how does it help you better manage your supply chain?

There are three types of AI:

General AI (also known as “strong” AI) exhibits sentience or human reasoning and can successfully perform any intellectual task a human being can. Machines process data faster than humans. But as human beings, we outstrip machines with our ability to think abstractly, strategize, make informed decisions and come up with creative ideas–intelligence that’s near impossible to replicate in machines. Theoretically, general AI can reason, solve problems, make judgments under uncertainty, plan, learn, and integrate prior knowledge into decision-making.

General+ AI (also called “super” AI) is years away. And when it does come, it’ll surpass human intelligence in everything from creativity to general wisdom and problem-solving.

But it’s the third type of AI--Narrow AI (aka “weak AI”)—that’s relevant to our discussion. Don’t let the term “weak AI” fool you; it simply means software that makes decisions based on or solves, problems with a narrow scope. While narrow AI can’t learn to operate outside its intended use case, it is beneficial for practical, day-to-day applications, removing monotonous, routine, or error-prone tasks that waste time and supply chain resources, including human resources.

Where is AI headed?

Narrow AI has a bright future: It’s getting better at solving complex problems that have real-world consequences. It’s also being adopted in mission-critical operations.

In PwC's Global Artificial Intelligence Study: Sizing the prize, consulting firm PwC reports that AI applications have the power to transform business. PWC further expects AI to add up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy over the next decade, speeding agility and precision in supply chain optimization and triggering operational and supply chain efficiencies.

How supply chain managers can leverage Narrow AI for efficiency gains

Some of the most exciting developments in business automation in the supply chain are happening under the AI umbrella. Studies suggest that AI and machine learning can deliver unprecedented value to supply chain and logistics operations in areas like planning and scheduling, forecasting, spend analytics, logistics network optimization, and more.

Narrow AI holds promise for boosting top-line and bottom-line value for supply chain optimization with benefits like faster fulfillment, reduced supply chain costs, and reduced material costs and shipping waste.

Take parcel packing in the warehouse, for example.

Suppose you’re a supply chain manager pressured to get shipments out the door as fast as possible. It makes no practical sense to have a warehouse worker attempt to analyze complex carrier rate incentives or fees before selecting a box configuration for an order. But by using narrow AI and automating—and optimizing--your packaging selections, instructing the worker with explicit instructions, you transform inefficient use of labor into productivity, profitability, and better choices. Now you’re solving shipping problems in real-time.

Want to understand how to simply solve common yet complex, on-the-ground shipping problems and make your supply chain more agile and efficient?

Learn how narrow AI can “unpack” the complexity of efficient parcel packing in Paccurate’s Cost Optimal Packing Whitepaper. Book a meeting with Paccurate’s AI packing experts today. Or visit Paccurate.io to learn how you can take Narrow AI for a test drive in your fulfillment process.