Ongoing system improvements and value creation related to procurement processes are major strategic areas of corporate interest. To become or remain competitive, companies are investigating uses of new technologies and ushering in significant digital transformations that enhance and complement existing technological capabilities.
In this article, we explore why digital transformation is essential to supply chain management and the accompanying key technologies.
Importance of Effective Supply Chain Management
For a company to operate effectively and efficiently, the supply chain has to be both flexible and resilient. With reliable access to goods and services, a company can be innovative and competitive in the present marketplace and into the future. However, moving beyond today’s needs involves:
– Developing complete supply chain visibility
– The means to evolve with changes in customer needs and habits
– Data management tools that keep up with changing demands and requirements
– Integrating new technologies into all environments
Key Supply Chain Technologies
Technology and supply chain optimization go hand-in-hand. Many businesses are undergoing digital transformations in preparation for estimated future environments. Here are some of the key supply chain technologies leading businesses beyond today’s needs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Analytics
AI is already an active digital transformation technology. It is used to power robotics and is often combined with other existing and emerging technologies. When AI is paired with advanced analytics, it can take vast volumes of information from various sources including data loggers, and trace demand curves, provide real-time information on products traveling through the supply chain, monitor inventory and send alerts when levels drop.
Dickson adds that with so much data being processed, AI can use that information as the basis for suggestions on how to resolve possible issues before they develop, thereby making an agile supply chain. The algorithms used in the analytical process can locate patterns, issues, and other anomalies that could take humans months and even years to identify.
Advanced analytics can sift through enormous amounts of data in a fraction of that time and reveal where solutions are needed or suggest better ways to achieve the same outcomes quicker and at an affordable price.
The human-like decisions created from advanced analytics and acted upon by AI can reroute shipments, activate new supply sources, and adjust security in real-time. The combination of AI and advanced analytics provides cost-effective supply management.
Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Objects and Augmented Reality (AR)
Smart Objects come in many forms ranging from autonomous vehicles to mobile robots, and delivery drones. These technologies provide better solutions that run on streamlined pathways to accomplish goals that would cost more if traditional means were used. Using robot technology, products and services are delivered faster, more accurately, and more efficiently.
Using drones or robots frees up employees who used to have delivery responsibilities so they can concentrate their efforts on higher-value tasks that cannot be automated and require human creativity and expertise.
The Internet of Things is quite simply the center of the supply chain of the future. It helps in many areas ranging from real-time inventory management and controlling machines and systems in plants to tracking machinery and automatically arranging for repairs when breakdowns occur.
The IoT is an important cog in the wheel of progress. Augmented Reality is already a big player in supply chain management. When combined with virtual reality (VR), AR permits remote viewing and networking.
This is done in real-time to assist in identifying and responding to issues that may affect the efficiency of a system without interrupting the original operation. AR and VR are also effective in staff training settings where heads-up displays feature content that is specific to the training facility.
Blockchain technology is best known as a cryptocurrency technology. The security it provides, however, has proven to be an asset when applied to other industries such as supply chain management. Blockchain provides extreme data security through a complex authentication process.
This is ideal in the tracking and processing of products flowing through several locations in a supply chain. This technology also offers superior security of all transaction data and speeds up the transaction process without affecting the overall accuracy of the data or exposing any of it to danger.
Walmart provides an example of how blockchain technology fits into supply chain management. Walmart has executed a process that monitors the movement of food products within the United States to measure quality to lower the cost of spoilage and contamination, costs that create one of the larger hits to food retailers profitability.
In another form of cost cutting, mining companies like BHP employ blockchain systems to improve accountability and eliminate excess paperwork required for large transactions.
The future is so bright, you may need to wear sunshades. This will continue to be true as long as technology continues to drive innovation. With advancements in technology always evolving, supply chains will continue to grow more cost effective. Today’s efficient processes will need to be tweaked to meet the new demand of longer, more complicated supply chains.
This creates an ongoing demand for new technology solutions. Traditional methods of management cannot properly address the issues. New technology sems positioned to not only rise to the occasion but also to project future changes while helping companies adapt to keep current with the latest changes in supply trains.
Technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, advanced analytics, smart objects, and blockchain are coming from other industries and finding a fit in supply chain management.
These tools have a proven track record in other industries and are making their presence known in the tracking, accountability, and security of today’s supply chain. They will play a big part in the way goods are delivered around the globe well into the future.