#NRF2020: Care needed introducing AI and ML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are set to have an increasingly big impact on the retail sector but for its value to be maximised it has to be introduced to employees with care and openness.

Speaking at Retail’s Big Show, organised by the National Retail Federation (NRF) in New York, Lars Gunnarsson, digital transformation leader of Ikea Food, said: “It’s super exciting and we’re currently putting the right data points in place for it. AI will support our sustainability and drive less waste. It will be massive for us. ”

Brad Coons, CTO of Save A Lot, stated that it will enable better decision making by taking the human bias out. “It will give us the tools to leverage the insights, across forecasting and demand,” he said.

But Gunnarsson recognised that care has to be taken: “It will challenge the existing ways of working within the business. Among the changes will be standardising the supply chain – balancing the global food offer with the local proposition.”

For Coons the solution to this wariness will be to “get it in front of people and show them how it is working and where [previous] decisions were biased by humans”. From this he said the conclusion will be to recognise that some control has to be ceded to AI and ML.

Hardee’s Kharou, SVP of supply chain at Loblaw’s, said that picking the right business problems early on and showing the results will help to create some excitement and encourage change within organisations. Once there is some scale then consideration of how to put it into the workflow of employees can then be undertaken