MDI Turns to AI for Forecasting

The new technology will improve forecast accuracy, inventory

Merchants Distributors Inc. (MDI), a subsidiary of Alex Lee Inc., which operates Lowes Foods, is implementing Symphony RetailAI’s Demand Forecasting AI and Warehouse Replenishment systems to support warehouse operations.

Hickory, N.C.-based MDI supplies more than 600 stores with food and nonfood items in 12 Eastern states and had relied on manual processes that were based on buyers’ historical knowledge, which led to inefficient assortment forecasting. The new solutions will automate the forecasting process.

“Our primary goal is to ensure that MDI customers continue to grow profitably and create loyalty with their customers, so we needed technology that helps us more quickly understand market trends, react faster and invest in the right products,” said Anita Harris, chief information officer of Alex Lee. “With accurate demand forecasting and streamlined inventory management, our supply chain aligns more closely with our wholesale customers’ needs. This ensures we consistently serve them the right products at the right time.”

The warehouse replenishment solution allows MDI to identify demand signals that are shared between stores and the warehouse for increased inventory visibility and insights. The demand forecasting solutions use machine learning and contextual data to improve forecast accuracy and remove guesswork to help reduce out-of-stocks, excess inventory and out-of-date food. It also accommodates grocery-style functionality for buying, enabling replenishment of all categories, including commodities, specialty and hyper-fresh items. Both systems are expected to be live at MDI by the end of the year.


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