Westpac describes how a team of industry, technology and banking innovators has successfully completed a pilot project that deployed not one, but four disruptive technologies in order to complete a ground-breaking fully-automated trade.
The four technologies – the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and blockchain – have been integrated into a single proof of concept. The project offers the potential to deliver greater accuracy and improve decision-making abilities for companies worldwide.
A consortium led by Westpac and including Infosys, a global digital transformation company, worked with test-client Ausreo, a mid-sized Australian steel reinforcing supplier, to demonstrate the viability of weaving together these four nascent technologies into a seamless and efficient business trading process.
“Key to the project was a reference focus group of clients from other sectors, as diverse as print and marketing services and mining, to ensure the broadest applicability of the solution,” says Russell Sinclair, Head of Trade, Asset & Structured Finance at Westpac Institutional Bank (WIB).
Accurate demand forecasting is pivotal to the success of every trading company. However, it’s a task that typically relies on experts with deep market knowledge, working with imperfect data.
The system replaced this with data analytics and artificial intelligence models to predict the next three months of demand and the next six months’ price, based on historical and external data.
Next up was tracking consumption, so that Ausreo could update its inventory, monitor specific sources of steel and confirm their delivery. This was achieved with an IoT gateway into an analytics module.
The amount of steel inventory could then be assessed on a continuous, real-time basis and stock levels could be calculated for the next two months, based on predicted consumption rates, lead times for delivery, minimum order values and replenishment rates of stock.
The following task was to ascertain the best time and place to purchase stock. Based on the above inputs, recommendations and alerts relating to pricing and stock levels were delivered through a user interface module that Ausreo’s purchasing manager could use to inform stock procurement decisions. The information was presented via a simple and intuitive dashboard that could be easily understood by a non-technologist and acted upon.
To achieve a more efficient procurement and payment process, a purchase system based on R3 Corda blockchain technology managed the complete purchase flow, from ordering, through to invoicing and payment, allowing an end-to-end paperless transaction that was able to validate information, flag any inconsistencies, increase processing speed and efficiency, and radically reduce errors.
The project was tested in a number of extreme scenarios and in every case resulted in transparency across the supply chain. The predictive analysis was compared against actual data and the results were in line with expectations. Validating the solution with focus group clients in other industries ensured that the solution was also set up to have broad applicability.
“Working with the WIB team, we have prototyped solutions that modernised Ausreo’s supply chain and core IT systems,” says Andrew Groth, Senior Vice-President, Regional Head – Australia & New Zealand Industry Head – Financial Services, Asia Pacific at Infosys. “The beauty of this solution is that it is inherently scalable by design. With componentised offerings, the solution can be tailored to meet individual client needs, by implementing one or several functions at a time.”
Michael Correa, General Manager, Asia Pacific at Westpac adds: “Strategic partnering is at the heart of Westpac’s innovation strategy and this pilot project is testament to that approach. The recent opening of our co.lab in Singapore will ensure that we continue to foster new customer solutions.”
A vision of the future
Westpac, which conceived the project, was determined to run a process that was entirely customer-centric. By using clients across different sizes and from a range of industries, the prototype was able to demonstrate its applicability across the bank’s client base.
“The cool thing about this project is that it offered a real glimpse of a future, where the CFO won’t even need to look at the mundane tasks of transacting at all. They will just wake up in the morning, view the relevant reports and then make better decisions that create real value,” says Westpac’s Sinclair.