On the Road to Intelligent Supply Chains

With help from the government's Innovations Superclusters Initiative, a Montreal firm is revolutionizing supply chains, using AI.


Supply chains are the backbone of trade, and the optimization of this sector is a major driver of economic growth, sustainability, and competitiveness.

Canadian businesses need to stay ahead of the curve in the supply chain “arms race”, and as such, the government has selected SCALE.AI as one of five recipients of their $950 million Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

Based in Montréal, SCALE.AI is a blend of industry and academic institutions dedicated to researching and developing a next-gen platform for global supply chains.

Using AI and robotics, they plan to integrate manufacturing, retail, transportation, infrastructure, communication, and IT to create intelligent supply chains.

Supply chains encompass all the components of a distribution system, from producers to warehouses, to drivers who transport them to markets, and ultimately, the consumer.

Extremely detailed management is needed to minimize losses in the form of waste stock, time as products pass through each distribution channel, and costs for every party involved. Poor supply chain management is a core reason why some 50% of businesses close within their first five years.

Knowing the probability of demand and how to transport products in the most efficient manner is a fundamental challenge for supply chain managers. Supply/demand forecast analysts examine all the relevant factors and theorize the best approach, but AI has capabilities that far exceed what is possible for a human.

Advanced AI is able to take the enormous amounts of data that supply chain activity produces and analyze it on an unprecedented scale. The results are applications such as optimized demand forecasting and inventory optimization which benefit businesses as well as the environment. 

Imagine a supply chain hive mind with eyes on every distribution channel, able to tell with incredible accuracy how much is needed where and when. Information on the weather, traffic updates, consumer behaviour, energy costs, and the longevity of the product out of storage could be cross-referenced and assessed to make the most logical decisions.

The bottom line for Canadian companies is that this tech will curb losses and boost profits as supply and demand are handled in the best possible way for everyone.

The government are particularly keen on seeing such benefits assist in scaling up start-ups and small or medium-sized enterprises.

“Integrating artificial intelligence into supply chain management will enable Canadian companies to increase their competitive advantage,” says Louis Roy, president of OPTEL and a co-chair of SCALE.AI.

Highly innovative research in this area will help to secure Canada’s place in an increasingly AI-dominated world, not to mention create many well-paid jobs. Government projections estimate that AI-powered supply chains will boost Canada’s GDP by $16 billion and create 16,000 new jobs over the next decade.

“The Canadian government’s initiative has spurred an unprecedented level of industry/research mobilization and cooperation,” says Roy.

“It is essential to strengthen it. It is only together that we can highlight Canada’s leadership in innovation in the face of growing international competition in the knowledge economy and sustainable growth.”

Quebec and Ontario comprise around 60% of national GDP and trade, so this supercluster will be implemented primarily in the Montreal/Windsor corridor, where the greatesr amount of data can be extracted.

The project has over 120 companies, businesses, and academic institutions on board and over $700 million was already committed prior to government assistance.

Other sectors part of the Supercluster Initiative include digital tech, oceans and fisheries, protein innovation, and advanced manufacturing.

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.