If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
This paper describes the application of reinforcement learning (RL) to multi-product inventory management in supply chains. The problem description and solution are both adapted from a real-world business solution. The novelty of this problem with respect to supply chain literature is (i) we consider concurrent inventory management of a large number (50 to 1000) of products with shared capacity, (ii) we consider a multi-node supply chain consisting of a warehouse which supplies three stores, (iii) the warehouse, stores, and transportation from warehouse to stores have finite capacities, (iv) warehouse and store replenishment happen at different time scales and with realistic time lags, and (v) demand for products at the stores is stochastic. We describe a novel formulation in a multi-agent (hierarchical) reinforcement learning framework that can be used for parallelised decision-making, and use the advantage actor critic (A2C) algorithm with quantised action spaces to solve the problem. Experiments show that the proposed approach is able to handle a multi-objective reward comprised of maximising product sales and minimising wastage of perishable products.
This paper describes a purely data-driven solution to a class of sequential decision-making problems with a large number of concurrent online decisions, with applications to computing systems and operations research. We assume that while the micro-level behaviour of the system can be broadly captured by analytical expressions or simulation, the macro-level or emergent behaviour is complicated by non-linearity, constraints, and stochasticity. If we represent the set of concurrent decisions to be computed as a vector, each element of the vector is assumed to be a continuous variable, and the number of such elements is arbitrarily large and variable from one problem instance to another. We first formulate the decision-making problem as a canonical reinforcement learning (RL) problem, which can be solved using purely data-driven techniques. We modify a standard approach known as advantage actor critic (A2C) to ensure its suitability to the problem at hand, and compare its performance to that of baseline approaches on the specific instance of a multi-product inventory management task. The key modifications include a parallelised formulation of the decision-making task, and a training procedure that explicitly recognises the quantitative relationship between different decisions. We also present experimental results probing the learned policies, and their robustness to variations in the data.