Embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Our industry is well known for its traditional practises and limited embrace of technological advancements. Having been born in 1960, I didn’t grow up with modern technologies like mobile phones or PlayStations, and I’m not particularly tech-savvy. However, I did realise at a very early stage after starting APP Timber that data-gathering was important for the company’s growth.
Two decades ago, we initiated a buyers and suppliers’ database, integrated with a program facilitating contract issuance, invoicing, document uploads, shipment updates, and providing buyers access to current and past contracts. This system, known as APP Timber Information Centre (APPiC), has evolved into an ERP system and a comprehensive tool managing in-house processes from contract creation to final payment and completion. It offers 24/7 access for buyers to check product readiness and shipping status, making APPiC unique in our industry.
However, APPiC lacks AI functionality; it doesn’t analyse input data or learn from it to enhance our trading practices. So, how can AI play a role in a timber trading and knowledge-based company like ours? AI can play an important role in supply chain optimisation, analysing historical data and market trends to predict future demand for our timber products. It can forecast future timber prices, empowering us to make strategic decisions in buying and selling. AI can analyse our buyers’ sales records, align them with suppliers’ offers, and enhance our effectiveness in offering the right products to buyers.
We will consider using AI to provide real-time customer service, address queries, provide information about our products, and facilitate quicker communication. We can also use AI to assess the environmental impact of timber-related activities, helping us comply with regulations and adopt sustainable practices such as the EUDR.
In conclusion, integrating AI into our business can enhance efficiency, increase sales, facilitate informed decision-making, and contribute to sustainable and responsible practices in the timber industry.