Our Journey using AI for Procurement

AI consultant for procurement

Hey everyone, I wanted to share an exciting update about a new service we’re offering at Sourcing Playground. It’s been quite a journey to get here, and I’m thrilled to tell you about how we’ve evolved and what we’re doing now with AI for procurement.

For years, we’ve been working with retail companies, helping them make multi-million dollar procurement and sourcing decisions. Our bread and butter has been providing market intelligence and trusted information to guide these choices. We’ve dealt with massive datasets, from certification and ESG data to trade information with millions of data points updated monthly.

As you can imagine, handling this much data came with its fair share of challenges. We faced issues with duplication, performance, accuracy, and making all this information actually usable for our clients. We knew we needed to find a way to make it easier to dig into and understand this wealth of data.

When AI and modern LLMs (Large Language Models) first come onto the scene, we saw the potential to tackle some of these challenges head-on. We’ve experimented with pretty much every major AI model out there – ChatGPT, Claude, Bard, Mistra, Llama – you name it, we’ve tried it.

Our experiments took us down some interesting paths. We started by testing if AI could be better at finding specific information than us and our users. Could we ask it to find “a clothing factory in Portugal” that matched certain criteria? We quickly learned that a more guided approach was necessary to prevent the AI from going off track or generating inaccurate information. Often it would bug out and provide false positives.

This led us to implement a more guided chat-based input, allowing users to express their needs in natural language while we provided structure to keep the AI focused. We later explored using AI for data cleaning, automated research, advanced curated insights and a few more things – all persistent headaches in our field.

Through all of this testing, we’ve learned a lot:

  1. Each AI model has its own strengths.
  2. The technology is progressing at a breakneck pace – we’re seeing new developments almost daily.
  3. AI isn’t a silver bullet. It has clear limitations and shouldn’t be treated as a cure-all.
  4. Some use cases are much better suited for AI than others. In some instances, better data processing is actually the answer.

Despite these challenges, we’re incredibly excited about the future of AI in procurement. We believe the next year will bring major changes to how many of us work.

As we’ve been on this journey, something interesting started happening. Retail companies began reaching out to us, curious about our AI implementations. They wanted to know why we chose certain technologies, how we were using AI, and what value we were seeing from it.

While there’s a lot of hype around AI, many companies are struggling to understand how to apply it practically in their day-to-day operations. There’s also a real fatigue when it comes to implementing new systems. What these companies were asking is how could they leverage AI to gain insights from their existing data.

This is especially relevant in procurement, where teams are dealing with vast amounts of information: product costs, locations, suppliers, margins, shipping, incoterms and more. All this information is often locked away in ERP systems, not really being put to good use. We found teams don’t have access to this information as a whole, which for procurement didn’t give them the holistic visibility they needed. 

So, we’ve decided to launch a new service. We’re taking all our technology and AI learnings and using them to help companies implement AI in their procurement processes. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or sell another software system. Instead, we’re looking at each company’s existing data and finding ways to apply AI to unlock valuable insights.

Our goals are simple:

  1. Make current data more accessible to procurement teams.
  2. Provide the answers procurement teams need to do their jobs effectively.
  3. Uncover hidden insights that could drive better decision-making.
  4. Use the latest technologies for competitive advantage

We’re already seeing great results. One of our clients shared this feedback:

“Working with Sourcing Playground you always get individual attention and solutions specifically tailored to meet your exact needs. It’s enabled more impactful conversations with our supply base, focusing our limited resources on needle-moving initiatives. You work directly with their experts to build tools and solutions together, which is extremely refreshing after spending many years dealing with other service providers’ sales teams and canned reporting.”

Senior Director of Global Costing @ Under Armour

We’re really excited about the value it can bring to procurement teams.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we might be able to help your company leverage AI for procurement insights, we’d love to hear from you.


Learn More

You May Also Like