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The Promise and Perils of AI for Distributors

We are at the earliest stages of AI, and no one can predict how it will ultimately affect our world, our businesses and our careers. Fully understanding the technology, its possibilities and implications is impossible right now and yet developing any kind of edge in domain expertise can bring enormous advantages to businesses. Consider this report a starting point. 

This report is organized into three sections:

Part 1: What is AI and What Does It Do?

This section explains how AI is different than other technologies, lays out a three-part categorization for business executives and provides ideas for how AI can help distributors right now.

Part 2: Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal. I’m Getting Out.

The hazards of AI aren’t theoretical and they aren’t in the future – they’re here now. Cybercriminals are already using this technology to commit crimes; your company is vulnerable in ways most of your employees don’t understand. Read this for an overview of the risks. 

Part 3: AI Will Eliminate Jobs and You Can’t Stop It

There’s a lot of “happy talk” on the internet right now (particularly on LinkedIn) about how AI is going to enhance humans’ ability to do work; it’s not going to replace them. The latter part of that sentiment is nonsense; AI is going to make tens of millions of jobs irrelevant, and businesses and workers need to understand and plan for this sweeping dislocation. 


Ian Heller

Ian Heller
Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer
Distribution Strategy Group

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About the author:

Ian Heller

Ian Heller

Ian Heller has more than 30 years of experience executing marketing and e-business strategy in the wholesale distribution industry. He has written and spoken extensively on the impact of digital disruption on distributors.

Ian entered the distribution industry as a truck unloader at a Grainger branch while in college. He eventually became Vice President of Marketing there and has since held senior executive roles at GE Capital, Corporate Express, Newark Electronics and HD Supply. Ian most recently served as President and COO for Modern Distribution Management, a specialized information and analytics firm serving the wholesale distribution industry.

Ian earned a BA in History from Roosevelt University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he was elected commencement speaker by his classmates and won the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award.