AI and machine learning in procurement: Revolutionizing the source-to-pay world with efficiency and decision-making

Jonathan Colehower, Managing Director, UST Global Supply Chain

AI and ML have introduced next-generation automation and new-age applications that are reshaping modern business practices.

Jonathan Colehower, Managing Director, UST Global Supply Chain

The procurement process - acquiring products, services, and outside suppliers - is complex, yet essential in guaranteeing that organizations obtain quality products and services at competitive prices. The intricacies involved in the procurement process include locating and sourcing potential suppliers, negotiating contracts, onboarding suppliers, mitigating risks, and navigating dynamic market conditions, as well as creating purchase orders, goods receipts, invoicing, and payments, among other tasks.

The complexities in the process are further heightened in today’s volatile economic landscape, characterized by rapid shifts in supply chains. With the need to embed agility and innovation in every aspect of the value chain, procurement teams have become indispensable and central to every organization.

Decision making is critical to the procurement function, and this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have cemented a role in accelerating the optimization and transformation of the modern-day procurement process. As a McKinsey survey informs us, one of the megatrends shaping the future procurement ecosystem is the advancement of AI and ML in enhancing spending transparency and capitalizing on movements in supply markets.


The importance of AI and ML in procurement

AI and ML have introduced next-generation automation and new-age applications that are reshaping modern business practices. When AI and ML enter the fast-paced realm of procurement, businesses can monitor goods in real time, predict equipment maintenance, manage inventory, optimize workflows, make dynamic demand forecasts, gain valuable insights, and automate the end-to-end source-to-pay process. The prevailing benefits of integrating AI and ML in the procurement process include:


AI and ML applications in procurement software

AI and ML can be embedded in procurement software to make strategic decisions by examining past transactions and suggesting new products and services based on current needs. The technologies also help procurement teams unlock a range of opportunities, from automating mundane tasks to uncovering new insights from data, securing supply chain vulnerabilities, and achieving operational excellence. As ML continues to prove itself as an indispensable element of the modern procurement process, its impact will strengthen with further developments of AI and ML applications that emphasize ML’s powerful algorithms for data-driven demand forecasting, predictive analysis, spend analysis, and decision-making capabilities. Here are some ways that AI and ML applications have been successfully applied to improve procurement efficiency:


The intersection of AI, ML, and automation in procurement

The intersection of AI, ML, and automation optimizes most aspects of the procurement process. By integrating these advanced technologies, organizations can make smarter decisions, improve resource allocation, reduce manual tasks, streamline workflows, and achieve operational excellence. This integration frees procurement teams from the monotony of routine tasks like data entry, purchase order creation, and invoice processing. It enables them to focus on higher-level projects, such as fostering supplier relationships and negotiating better deals that forge lasting strategic procurement endeavors.


The transformative impact of Generative AI promises to benefit all aspects of the source-to-pay process, from spending capitalization to steering contract negotiations. Generative AI is a blend of AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP), ML, deep learning, and neural networks that analyze training data to either generate new data with similar attributes or perform new tasks they were not programmed to accomplish. Essentially, Generative AI algorithmic models learn from each other and create new content or computing duties without human intervention.

The explosive interest in Generative AI within the source-to-pay sector is evident. The global market for Generative AI in procurement is projected to reach roughly USD 2,097 million by 2032, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 33% from 2023 to 2032. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study supports this movement, indicating that 73% of companies have already introduced AI in some areas of their business, and Generative AI is leading the charge.


Wrapping up

AI and ML-driven applications in the procurement sector have emerged to propel efficiency, cost savings, and data-driven decisions across source-to-pay functions.

These frontier technologies are revolutionizing traditional procurement practices. They use automation, deep-dive analytics, and real-time decisions to help procurement teams, source suppliers, analyze contracts, diminish risks, navigate changing market conditions, automate workflows, optimize pricing, manage supply chains, and more.

Additionally, the pervasiveness of the dynamic, distributed cloud serves as the foundational architecture capable of unleashing the full potential of these technological achievements, including the advent of SaaS procurement. This cloud-based subscription procurement software service helps businesses be more agile, responsive, strategic, and competitive.

AI and ML in procurement have already unlocked enormous value and potential, advancing the procurement process in the digital ecosystem through workflow efficiency, advanced analytics, and realtime decision-making capabilities.

With the increasing interest in Generative AI, procurement teams can fully leverage these transformative technologies to differentiate, compete, and thrive in the AI and rapid automation age.

At UST, we harness the pioneering technologies of AI, Generative AI, ML, deep learning, and automation with best practices for responsible and ethical AI integration. Get your copy of the SaaS procurement whitepaper to learn about the most innovative modern procurement methods and applications, their unique challenges, and their potential to improve procurement efficiency and effectiveness.