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How do you describe the data-driven professionals working behind the scenes, using technology to ensure that essential goods are available for purchase because supply chains are running smoothly during the pandemic? “Digital heroes” is the term we coined during my conversation with Megan Hostetler for the Salesforce Marketing Cloudcast.  

There’s a lot of buzz out there about how has worked quickly to pivot in the early days of COVID-19 and developed AI algorithms to help predict supply and demand for consumer goods companies during this pandemic. My podcast with Salesforce was focused on educating the Marketing Cloudcast audience about this use case for AI and data science and how this is helping our customers keep goods flowing to people in need. 

It’s been incredible to see how our data science and product delivery teams have shifted to offer applications that meet the needs of our customers during this time. 

Early Signals Emerge in the Data

A few of Noodle’s customers who’ve deployed our supply chain applications to deliver longer term demand forecasts or supply chain execution recommendations started to see some interesting trends in the data out of the Asia Pacific region early in Q1.  

As we started to look at the data coming out of our models with them, we could see that there were some unusual fluctuations in demand indicative of impending extreme volatility. We started to incorporate more external data into our data science models that could help inform accurate predictions in this climate, such as new business and consumer demand indicators.  

We started to pivot our models to combine internal sales, order, and raw materials data and these relevant external indices such as healthcare employment, auto sales and consumer mobility. Interestingly, one can see the spikes and declines in demand in our customers’ data, moving across the globe from Asia Pacific, to Europe, to the U.S.  

These customers have implemented either our Athena Insights or Demand Signal AI applications and are using them to populate their coronavirus war rooms. They’re trying to navigate the turns in the current crisis and are beginning to think about how to emerge out of the crisis fundamentally stronger and ready to withstand future systemic shocks. 

We’ve been helping customers forecast the shape of their demand curve, determining whether they’ve got products that are spiking or declining; whether they are stable or volatile products so that they can tune their supply chains and their manufacturing processes to meet the demand that that is emerging.  

Being Helpful in Stressful Times

One of the things that we have as a core value at Noodle is BCHILL. Each of those letters stands for a specific team value, but one that’s relevant to this conversation is the H, which is to be HELPFUL. It’s been really rewarding to be helpful to these customers as they navigate through this crisis. 

We heard from a few of our customers that their traditional planning systems are overwhelmed with volatility. So much so, that they’ve had to turn their traditional systems off and return to Excel spreadsheets and phone calls to understand what’s happening in their supply chain. 

Imagine an inventory or demand planner sitting in their virtual location looking at alerts that are coming from their systems (or seeing no systemic signals whatsoever if their systems are turned off). Now imagine an Excel spreadsheet that would have them forecasting the execution of movement of goods in a supply chain that’s got millions of permutations and combinations.

What their planning systems are doing, with the help of’s product, is ingesting all relevant data into our applications’ algorithms, sensing the most important signals in the data and delivering the most valuable recommendations to the planners. This is possible because the algorithms we use can handle billions or trillions of data points and not get overwhelmed by the complexity inherent in a pandemic. This methodology gives planners a simple set of prioritized, actionable recommendations they can either accept or reject. 

Not only have we heard that we’ve been instrumental to customers during this time, we’ve reduced the stress levels of individual supply and inventory planners that rely so much on our software. There’s a lot of empathy and care that goes into the work that we do because we’re concerned about our end users and want to make sure that their workload is more manageable. They’re sitting in some of the most stressful seats on the planet right now, ensuring people have access to some fundamental items, like the food; making sure you get that in the right place is a heavy responsibility (we cannot forget the healthcare workers saving lives, which is a totally different, critical level of heroism).  

We understand anecdotally from our customer success teams that it has reduced the stress levels of the planners, who are on the front lines driving these decisions. Whether they expedite a product or not is going to determine whether you find your favorite product when you go to the grocery store. 

I was glad to share this helpful application of AI with the Cloudcast audience, who Megan reports may not be aware of the existence of AI and data science created to reduce volatility and noise in supply chains. It’s’s way to lead through change and keep the supply chains of the world running through this crisis and beyond.