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Brunel algorithm helping make Caterpillar Brexit-proof


Global giant, Caterpillar used a piece of artificial intelligence made in Brunel to help super proof its business against Brexit, within hours of the result.

Algorithms developed by computer scientists at Brunel University London helped form the mind behind the mechanisms steering the earthmover’s super slick supply chain.

Brunel’s fast-thinking remodelling software is a highly sophisticated version of the type of technology that tracks mail order parcels. It amplifies business efficiency, resilience and flexibility.

It is an important part of Caterpillar’s Assurance of Supply Centre (ASC) where it crunches big data in real time throughout the firm’s global network of suppliers, assembly locations, dealers and customers. Caterpillar used the ASC to predict the effects of market fluctuations in the hours after Brexit.

“Within 24 hours, we modelled many different combinations of possible currencies and volumes and communicated to all the product lines that needed to act,” said Anthony Grichnik, in Caterpillar’s Global Supply Network Division. “We know competitors were chasing the currencies for some time, while our network was already changed,” he said in a talk at Brunel. “And we were able to do this in part through technology that was developed here.”

Getting machines, parts and tools to the right place at the right time is pivotal to profits. So workarounds are crucial to cope with even the smallest change in factors like currencies, taxes, fuel prices, accidents and so on. Brunel’s computer scientists worked with Caterpillar to tailor the nimble formulae and test it using a real life data stream. This helps Caterpillar predict disruptions before they occur and solve problems before they happen. It means it can put the right amount of products where they are needed, when they are needed in the most cost-efficient way.

“This helps enable them to make decisions very fast and make their supply network very profitable,” said Dr Tatiana Kalganova at Brunel’s Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering. “The Assurance of Supply Centre gives Caterpillar resilience, so if disaster strikes they lose the least amount of money possible. This helps them plan their next steps and shapes their business model.”

Computer remodelling technology has advanced at lightning speed since Dr Kalganova began working with it. “Four years ago, it took us weeks, using the most powerful computer to run this algorithm with this data – now we are talking about seconds.”

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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