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How digitalized tools can help overcome supply chain challenges

Aug. 26, 2022
Digi-Key reports that artificial intelligence (AI) and similar tools can enable flexibility and improve planning to help mitigate supply chain issues

Just as digitalized tools have softened the blow of COVID-19 and its related problems, they can also help distributors and suppliers with many of their related supply chain difficulties.

“Even with advanced systems and artificial intelligence (AI) telling us what’s likely to happen with lead times, order acknowledgement dates and other issues related to the more than 2 million line items we stock, it’s tough to maintain enough inventory, and we’re still facing lead times of 12 to 52 weeks or allocation,” says Eric Wendt, director of automation at Digi-Key Electronics. “The hardest thing right now is that acknowledgement dates are all over the board, and even though customers know they have to be more tolerant, it affects everything.

Assisted by AI

Wendt reports that the predictive software and AI that Digi-Key invested in a few years ago lets it predict market behaviors, examine individual commodities and apply them across multiple suppliers. This enables the distributor to get ahead on planning, and allows its customers to be more flexible in implementing alternative technologies in their applications.

Read more about the supply chain

This article is part of a series about the automation supply chain. Read more on the topic here.

“We can contribute to designs that employ more than one way to achieve a user’s goals, which is especially important when automation that used to be available in a few weeks is now taking a few months,” says Wendt. “However, this still requires us and our customers to be more flexible and have a better vision for what we want to accomplish in the future. AI is changing all the software and tools we use, but it’s still based on human-informed logic, even if its computing capabilities allow it to be applied on a much bigger scale involving thousands or even millions of devices.

“In any case, Digi-Key’s goal is still to ship 95% of products from stock each day, even though it’s been a struggle lately with such long and unreliable lead times. These delays make it a great time for customers to investigate how their processes and companies might benefit from using new technologies. They can look into their plants, identify repetitive or dangerous tasks, figure out where they should automate, and ask their system integrators or distributors to determine specific problem and solutions.”

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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