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Laura Syrett reports from London on the potential benefits ChatGPT can offer the paint industry, such as competitive supply chain advice
While the benefits of implementing artificial intelligence (AI) into the paints and coatings industry are well accepted, from the deployment of painting robots to achieve better vehicle finishes in the automotive manufacturing industry and even consistent production of paint itself, the latest range of chat-based AI tool offers additional benefits, say experts.
Given the paints and coatings industry’s ready embrace of AI, it is no surprise that the sector is already investigating options to adopt these tools, such as ChatGPT, which could offer advice on supply chain efficiencies, said Vikas Garg, Director and Chief Technology Officer at Gurugram, India-based IT solutions provider BaffleSol Technologies.
ChatGPT, or ‘Chat Generative Pretrained Transformer’, is a type of natural language processing model that is free to use. Developed and launched last November (2022) by US-based artificial intelligence research laboratory, OpenAI, ChatGPT uses so-called ‘self-attention mechanisms’ – a system that takes in information from a source such as the internet to produce information in the form of text. Other similar AI-chat large language models (LLMs) models exist, such as Google Bard, Vicuna, Koala, GPT4All, and Dolly 2.0.
Revolutionising the supply chain?
Garg told PPCJ that that the chatbot can help businesses that use it to gain an advantage in tricky competitive situations, analysing historical sales data, market trends and other factors to generate accurate demand forecasts, select suppliers, process orders and manage quality control, helping businesses stay one step ahead of disruption.
“ChatGPT is set to revolutionise the future of supply chain management (…) By leveraging the power of AI, businesses can optimise their supply chain operations, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction, ultimately gaining a competitive advantage in the market,” he said.
This, he said, would be of particular interest to the paints and coatings industry, which relies on complicated supply chains and distribution networks, which do not always work well.
In February 2022, for example, it was reported that the US was facing a paint shortage due to supply chain issues. (1)
However, some industry observers are doubtful that ChatGPT is ready to be left in charge of crucial supply chain functions, such as quality control, without intervention by human experts, or that it offers much beyond the benefits of specialist AI already being used by the paint and coating sector.
“Any modern Quality Management System (QMS) application can already be augmented with an embedded AI analytics module,” said Lorenzo Veronesi, Associate Research Director for Massachusetts, US-headquartered consultancy IDC Manufacturing Insights EMEA.
“This is very useful to help companies figure out complex root cause structures and, in general, investigate their ‘known’ and ‘unknowns’ [of quality management issues]. [However] it is unclear on which data ChatGPT is going to rely. So, at the present time, we think that ChatGPT is overselling a little bit here,” he added.
Dr Vaggelis Giannikas, Associate Professor at the School of Management at the UK’s University of Bath, agrees: “ChatGPT could give you information that could help you understand more about quality control, predictive maintenance and document summarisation, for example, but it is not as if it can run these processes for you,” using standard computing.
Dr George Bargiannis from the School of Computing and Engineering at the UK’s University of Huddersfield, thinks ChatGPT is not yet ready to deliver immediate benefits to specialist supply chains in industries such as paints and coatings.
“In my opinion, the current iteration of ChatGPT (…) is still far from being considered fit for purpose for commercial use, certainly not within a supply chain setting,” he said. “This is because the data it is trained on are unlikely to be of direct relevance to the day-to-day operations of a particular supply chain like paint, as most of these data are not publicly available.”
However, Bargiannis foresees the development of bespoke forms of generative AI, trained on data provided by a particular brand or industry, such as paints and coatings, that could offer direct benefits. “[These iterations] will be more likely to assist in tasks such as supplier selection and evaluation, by quickly assessing candidate supplier capabilities and track record based on historical information,” he told PPCJ.
But while ChatGPT may need to mature before it can be relied upon to improve critical manufacturing processes, consumer-focused paint brands are forging ahead by trialling the use of ChatGPT in their marketing.
In April, this year (2023), Manchester, UK-based independent paint company HMG Paints Ltd launched a new collection called Nature’s Embrace, created using a combination of ChatGPT and HMG’s own ‘ColourBase’ software, as covered in PPCJ.
“AI has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach creating marketing assets,” Rebecca Jennings, Creative Marketer at HMG, said at the launch of the Nature’s Embrace collection. “With AI’s ability to analyse large amounts of data and provide insights into consumer behaviour, we can create more effective and targeted marketing campaigns,” she added
Other brands agree that ChatGPT has the potential to help them sell paint but are mindful of the programme’s limits. In January (2023), Canadian paint company The Paint People, a subsidiary of New Jersey, US-based global paints business Benjamin Moore, broadcast a tutorial on its YouTube channel on how consumers can use ChatGPT to pick colour palettes for their homes.
As well as asking it to suggest general ideas, the tutorial showed how the programme could also be used to select specific colours produced by different brands to create a chosen colour scheme, by typing in “conversational questions” about paint. (2)
However, the tutorial did point out some “mistakes” ChatGPT made in its recommendations, such as recommending the same paint colour name twice but referencing different colour codes from the same brand.
The tutorial also pointed out that ChatGPT tended to select colours frequently talked about on Google from two years prior to the tutorial – a key reason being ChatGPT currently relies on data culled from the internet posted until September 2021. “In an industry that is predicated on current trends, that doesn’t really help us,” the tutorial concluded.
Meanwhile, these systems can also help close collaborators and buyers such as interior designers, said Clara Carlino de Paz, Community Lead, at Portaire, a London-based UK interior architectural directory creating a suite of tools to enable designers to manage workflow, source products and simplify daily tasks: “ChatGPT can be extremely useful for interior designers as they can simplify the design process, provide new ideas, and increase productivity,” she said. “With ChatGPT, you can ask questions about trends (…) colour palettes and much more. Also, you can ask the platform to help you write and structure your marketing, social media, and SEO strategies in a matter of minutes,” she added.
For more information, contact Keith Nuthall, International News Services:
Tel: +44 (0) 207 193 4888; Email: [email protected]