Strengthening Supply Chain Resilience by Leveraging the Power of AI and Data

In anticipation of GSX, we sat down with presenters of upcoming sessions in order to get a better understanding of the topics at hand. This week we are featuring, “Strengthening Supply Chain Resilience by Leveraging the Power of AI and Data,” presented by Chris Hurst, the vice president of global technology solutions at OnSolve. Read on for what he had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2022! 

Q: How did you become interested in your topic?   

CH: Supply Chain resilience is a topic I’ve been interested in for a while! After serving at the tactical level as an army diver/army engineer officer from 2001 to 2006, I spent my last year on active duty serving with Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT), which had the sustainment mission for all US military forces in the Middle East. At a conceptual level, ARCENT faced the strategic challenges of supply chain resilience to support all forces in conflict zones. Second, this mission continued in my civilian life. I spent the next four years (2006-2010) planning and building infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time, supply chain resilience meant ensuring the right people, equipment and components showed up at the right place and at the right time – and that was obviously a huge challenge. Challenges ranged from our internal systems and processes, to the supplier organizations, to the links and nodes – from manufacturing plants to airports and seaports (“APODs and SPODs” when it involved military equipment) to roads and borders. Third, as a co-founder of a software company, we wrestled with a different kind of “supply chain resilience:” the supply of software engineering talent. For many reasons, we found the right mix to be both domestic and international – from the US to Colombia to Ukraine. Obviously, recent events challenge assumptions of stability that seemed sound just a few years ago.  

Philosophically, I think the scope is even larger. Supply chain resilience is, at its core, closely tied to questions of globalization itself. There are arguments that the policies and beliefs surrounding the integration of goods and services which skyrocketed the growth of developing countries in the post WWII era (and particularly, post-1980) may be waning. All of us are living at an important moment in history, and that’s fascinating to me.  

Q: Tell us about your presentation and why security professionals should have this topic on their radar.  

CH: The chaos of the last 12 months has shed light on an already vulnerable supply chain, and the ripple effect it can have on other industries and areas of business. What we’re seeing with our customers is the need to anticipate supply chain disruption, so its impact can be mitigated. Separately, we have also been hearing about the promise of AI to help us solve our most difficult security problems. I know security professionals have been involved in both discussions, and I wanted to bring them together to show a practical application of AI and machine learning to help increase supply chain resilience.  

Q: What advice would you give security professionals interested in this topic?  

 CH: 3 pieces of advice:  

  1. The deeper you understand your organization’s business model and operations, the more helpful you can be. What are the “must-have” components of your business and supply chain – and what are the nice-to-haves? What are the security and disruptive risks to the must-haves? Who are your supply chain management counterparts responsible for those?  
  1. To the degree that you can, design your calendar, priorities, and team to allow space for thinking “what could go wrong?” I’m sensitive in saying this. COVID and everything else over the last 2 years have slammed our industry. There is no work-life balance, and BC and Security teams are notoriously overworked and understaffed. But there’s a hidden cost: there’s been little space for our risk professionals to think broadly about risk, and most teams are continually in reactive mode. I think the best of us find ways to prioritize the mental and temporal space to plan for the “unknown unknowns.” How do you achieve this? Communicate with your boss, upward and team vision, delegate what you can, use technology effectively… we’ll talk more about this.  
  1. Be the answer to the risk questions that your executive team should be asking. If you’ve done the above, you’ll be a strategic asset to your organization. One way to have these answers is to use technology. AI can help with quickly processing and making sense of a “world of data, in a world of risk.”  

Q: How do you see this issue evolving in the next 2-5 years?  

CH: Achieving supply chain resilience is going to become a key strategic advantage in the next 2-5 years. The truth is, these risks and disruptions are not going away, in fact they are getting more complex. Those who can put processes and technology in place to anticipate and predict disruption are the organizations that will come out on top. Every organization should be interested in better, faster data related to natural disasters, civil unrest, climate change, global health crises, severe weather, and other critical events. Knowing sooner helps you react faster and produces better outcomes. Our presentation will demonstrate how organizations can leverage AI to anticipate and mitigate disruptions to their supply chain, which will put their organization in a better position going forward.