Three Questions: Yossi Sheffi on the Future of AI and Supply Chains | MIT News

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The global supply chain is a highly technical and organizational feat. They are also vulnerable to unforeseen developments, as the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has shown. Will that change when artificial intelligence becomes a bigger part of the supply chain? And what will happen to workers in the process?

MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi explores these topics in a new book, The Magic Conveyor Belt: AI, Supply Chains, and the Future of Work, published by MIT’s CTL Media. Her Sheffi, Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, just celebrated her 50th anniversary and is also the director of MIT’s Transportation and Logistics Center.he talked with MIT News about the new book.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: After the pandemic started, suddenly the supply chain got hot. This book is the idea of ​​writing a thesis on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Transportation and Logistics Center in March. The first part of the book explains how intricate his chain of supply is and how awesome it is. Never get upset when something is not available at the supermarket or Amazon. Once you figure out what it takes to get there, you’ll be amazed at what’s out there. Supply chains not only improve people’s living standards by ensuring access to medicines and commodities, they are essential to meet modern challenges such as resilience and sustainability. The book then examines supply chain operations and business in general, and the technology underlying his AI in particular, leading to an exploration of the jobs of the future. These technologies are advancing rapidly, so of course it’s hard to know what’s going to happen.

Q: I can’t predict what impact AI will have, how do you think about it and discuss it in your book?

A: I have seen all industrial revolutions. Fear of losing a job is pervasive all the time. In 1589, William Lee asked the Queen of England for a patent for a sock-making machine. The Queen, fearing unemployment in the industry, closed it. When looms were automated in the 19th century, or when Ford started the Model T production line, this fear led to violence.

But each time technology changed, more jobs were created than were lost. Each time, people were saying, “But not now.” Even with AI, it is quite possible that more jobs will be created than they are lost. When ATMs came along, people thought bank tellers were gone. However, the number of bank tellers in the United States has doubled. why? Because it became much cheaper to open a branch. When Ford was building cars by hand, it had only a few hundred employees. On the Model T he was 157,000, which is no big deal. People could afford cars, they could drive anywhere, motels and restaurants popped up across America, and millions of jobs were created. Therefore, you are growing in the profession itself and related fields.

There is no doubt that modern AI, if used effectively, can increase productivity and usher in a new era of economic growth. But he has one thing to say about why it might actually be a little different this time. It’s the speed of change. This is because, unlike electric and steam engines, there is no need to build a huge plant. Once developed, it is software that moves at the speed of light. Governments may have to do more to retrain and enroll people in technical schools sooner. As AI becomes more sophisticated, the possibilities are even greater.

Q: Given these insights, how do you think this applies to your supply chain?

A: Supply chains are rapidly becoming automated. The warehouse is full of robots. It is the number one robot application in China and many other places. Occupations that were once male-dominated, such as driving trucks and moving boxes, are now becoming increasingly technical jobs, with more jobs for women.

However, as of 2015, truck drivers were still the number one occupation in 29 US states. Self-driving trucks will never drive in urban areas. To get there, you have to cross the white line on the road or cross the sidewalk, which is not programmed. Instead, the model for self-driving trucks is now called exit-to-exit, with transfer stations near highways or outside cities. Trucks go from factories to highway exits and then to transfer facilities to unload goods. This will likely create many new jobs in the first and last mile of self-driving trucks, and many jobs in these stations, such as retail, maintenance and audit/check services. I have. Hard to imagine, but we see more jobs being created. I’m optimistic, but that’s my nature.

I love working in this field because it’s a combination of technology and process, but at the end of the day the supply chain is a network of people. Ultimately, supply chains are made up of people who manufacture, store, move, contract and communicate, all powered by increasingly powerful technology. And technology is a force that augments, not replaces, many of the unique human qualities.

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