Unilever’s new Toronto AI lab will address supply chain challenges

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by Emily Atkins

Unilever opened its new global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab known as Horizon3 Labs last week in Toronto.

Gary Bogdani, Head of Data Science, Unilever North America and Head of Data and Analytics, Unilever Canada addresses the crowd at the lab opening.

Unilever is already using this technology across its business, including Generative AI in its customer service and marketing, and advanced analytics and machine learning in supply chain and logistics.  

The new lab represents an increase in technology investment that grew out of the company’s focus on the use of AI to increase productivity and efficiency.

“Unilever is making a significant investment in developing and deploying AI technology across the business, and the launch of Unilever’s AI Lab will expedite the progress we are making globally and enable us to have the right focus on technology innovation,” said Andy Hill, chief data officer, Unilever.

“We are working to solve real-life problems through innovation, and setting up this lab in Toronto allows us to access vibrant tech talent and some of the best partners in the business to bring solutions to life.”  

Horizon3 Labs is located in Toronto, which is recognized for its concentration of AI expertise across academia, start-ups and businesses. Unilever will look to benefit from the top-tier talent the city offers.  

“It is incredibly exciting that Toronto will be home to Unilever’s first and only global AI Lab,” said Gary Wade, president of Unilever Canada.

“In selecting Toronto, we will be able to tap into one of the fastest growing AI superclusters in the world with access to best-in-class research facilities and world-class talent while also building off the collaborative power of academia, businesses and government.”    

Unilever worked closely with Toronto Global – the investment attraction agency for the Toronto Region – in choosing the location for Horizon3 Labs.

Unilever currently has more than 400 applications of AI across disciplines including marketing, supply chain, and research and development. For example, Unilever currently has 50,000 ice cream freezers around the world that are AI-enabled to efficiently place the right product in the right freezer at the right time.

The company also developed a bespoke AI solution that auto-updates product titles and descriptions on retail websites to respond to search trends to put relevant products in front of consumers.

The company, best known for its beloved brands such as Dove, Hellmann’s, and Knorr, is exploring data and analytics tools that unlock AI and machine learning across the value chain. The work done in Toronto will be incorporated across the business globally.

The Horizon3 Labs team will initially focus on prioritizing three areas of interest: forecasting, modelling complex data relationships with graph technology, and generating insights into trends, patterns, and predictions through AI.