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5 Supply Chain Emerging Technologies Delivering Competitive Advantage

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supply chain technologies

Innovative technologies have transformed the supply chain space in the last ten years. The shift is driven by heightened customer demands, increased product complexity, and globalization. Companies respond to these changes by increasing delivery times, improving their interactions with the environment, and providing cheaper products.

Further, supply chain managers face the problem of being consistent primarily due to changing local and global public policy. These include economic restricting, sustainability, border battles,  trade wars, emissions regulations, freight movement restrictions, especially in most urban.

To cope with the new normal innovations has led to emerging technologies that will affect the supply chains as we advance.

Trends in Supply Chain Technologies

The cutting cost was the most significant supply chain achievement for decades. The industry’s other achievements in recent years are efficiency, customer satisfaction, and sustainability.

Since ethical behavior is important in making strategic decisions, cost-reduction, although a priority, is no longer an automatic victory. In fact, the sector must integrate all its assets such as delivering profitability, customer value and improve all areas such as customers, suppliers, finance, marketing, sales, and leadership.

The following strategies can help supply chain leaders.

Visibility

There should be real-time data in all stages of goods and materials handling. Such data assures customers that their products are sustainably sourced from a social and environmental perspective. As a result, consumers are able to make informed decisions about the products that they intend to purchase or about their buying practices.

Companies also benefit from real data because they can maintain control, respond to problems quickly before escalating, and enforce certain policies and laws.

Predictive Strategies

Knowing how to predict the future is vital because it helps the industry to anticipate patterns thus be proactive in solving issues before they happen. It will help them meet future demands without overstocking as well as keep costs at a minimum.

The new normal has prepared shippers and the entire logistic industry for anything. They are able to do that because of using sophisticated systems that increase their options in the event their suppliers are unavailable.

Recruit Data Teams

Supply chain management has a prosperous future, but it needs robust technological investment not only at the material level. Organizations fall short without dedicated data teams and human resources. The data team analyzes data, recommends growth strategies, and produces insights based on the businesses’ needs.

Emerging Supply Chain Technologies

1.    The Internet of Things (IoT)

Generally, the world is expected to increase spending on IoT from now on. As a result, finished goods, shipment, and warehousing will communicate information and provide insights, thus enhancing traditional supply chain practices.

Manufacturers are expected to spend more in IoT deployments managing production assets and supporting manufacturing operations. In the transportation space, players are required to invest in fleet management and freight monitoring.

For example, suppliers who leverage advanced analytics and AI to track location, environmental status, weather conditions, and traffic patterns can predict whether the shipment of refrigerated goods will experience equipment failure.

This insight is helpful because it automatically helps them reroute their delivery to another distribution center. Still, the information call allows them proactively dispatch a maintenance or repair crew to assist in the event of spoilage. Actually, being able to monitor assets in the entire logistics journey eliminates lost shipments, misplaced inventory and reduces revenue loss and risk.

2.    Blockchain

Blockchain technology is mainly linked with cryptocurrencies. However, distributed ledger technology is ranked among the supply chain technologies set to bring improved transparency and visibility to its processes.

For instance, the technology is a better place to track the provenance of the goods because it is used to create immutable transactions records. It will also help build trust in shared information about suppliers, particularly when the parties don’t engender trust and have competing agendas.

Further, the technology can create audit trails that are superior to traditional options like simple electronic record keeping or email. Also, blockchain can facilitate the tracking and tracing applications to assist businesses in documenting the custody of goods chain. This is necessary to identify fraud and counterfeit items, prevent leakage, prove that regulatory requirements are being followed, prevent leakage, isolate at-risk suppliers, and foster transparency in the sourcing industry.

An excellent example of the use of blockchain technology in the supply chain, particularly in food, is how Walmart and IBM are running a pilot project dubbed Food Trust Solution that is geared towards tracking lettuce being delivered by its suppliers. The technology will help the eCommerce giants track the produce up to the farm where they were grown in the event of an E.coli outbreak or any other infection. But for different competing partners to benefit from these technologies, the entire industry consortia-backed initiative is needed.

3.    AI, Machine Learning, and Analytics

The industry has complex global networks and a lot of data that it can use to understand it. However, companies in the supply chain space can improve delivery times, automate warehouse operations, proactively manage inventory, create unique customer experiences and optimize strategic sourcing relationships with the view of boosting sales and increasing satisfaction. This is achievable by combining machine learning, AI, and predictive analytics.

In fact, initially, it was thought that the supply chain space didn’t have enough data. However, that was not true because the industry has huge amounts of data, and the present is how to use it. AI and machine learning are set to come in and provide needed insight without any human intervention.

Companies are investing in predictive analytics because it can help them reduce cost, enhance customer experience, strategic sourcing, inventory visibility, inventory optimization, in addition to real-time product intelligence.

On the other hand, advanced skills and high-quality data are needed to deliver actual business value, but many companies and chain managers don’t understand this can be beneficial. They also lack a clear business case for these technologies.

4.    Robots and Automation

Over the decades, the supply chain industry has been using robots to move materials and goods in the warehouse, when transporting them, and during the fulfillment process. However, AI technologies have propelled robots to higher heights of sophistication. As a result, robots will complete several manual tasks that humans initially did, such as picking orders and packing products, as well as automation of heavy loading tasks.

The connection between machine learning, AI, and IoT significantly improves the mobility and precision of industrial robots. It also aids in ensuring safety and facilitates a new generation of collaborative tools working alongside humans instead of segregating them in a separate safety zone.

There are large-scale deployments resulting from human-robot collaboration potential throughout the supply chain. Due to that, most warehouse activities employ robots and situational data analytics because it’s helping then increase warehouse capacity by as high as 20%, assisting with storage optimization and cutting backorder processing work by half.

Similarly, approximately 60% of the world’s manufacturers are working towards investing heavily in AI-enabled robotic process automation in the future. This will close the continuing talent and skills gap in the supply chain and increase productivity.

5.    3D Printing

Customers are interested in personalized products, and the switch to localized production and made-to-order has increased attention on 3D printing. Supply chain players have increased their investment in emerging technologies because they help decentralize production. They can also make parts and products in local assembly parts.

Companies are excited to manufacture products locally because this reduces transportation costs, cuts back on logistics, sidestep geopolitical risks, reduces carbon footprint, gets products to the market faster, and avoids tariffs linked to offshore outsourcing.

Further, the availability of inexpensive hardware, progress in materials as well as innovative AI-driven software design tools have made it possible for companies to manufacture lighter prototypes and fully functional parts with fewer material wastes than with traditional technologies.

Additionally, the on-demand production eliminates excessive investments in inventory and warehouses while providing superior customer service.

Conclusion

There is a huge learning curve when it comes to these advanced technologies, but the supply chain industry is presently undergoing a high-stakes makeover. While it’s important to focus on the 5 featured technologies, companies should beware of overlooking what is good for the business.

The aim of businesses focusing and investing heavily on technologies is to help them solve their problems or position them well so that they can seize new opportunities. In fact, technological innovations should propel supply chain management solutions. Companies operating in this space should navigate this digital era with greater efficiency and insight.

I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, how they can access key resources, avoid legal mistakes, respond to questions from angel investors as well as the reality check for startups. Continue reading my articles for more insight.

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