While the third quarter for 2019 is winding down, there’s never any slowing in the world of the supply chain. This has been a unique year full of diverse, interesting developments affecting global trade. When it comes to technology, some companies have one toe in the pool while others are already beginning to swim. At the same time, many businesses are still eyeing the water when it comes to recent innovation and advancements in tech. Here’s what you need to know about where our industry is headed.
Innovation in Supply Chain Technologies – Same Goal, New Playing Field
Within the supply chain industry, innovation has long been the name of the game, delivering critical advances as businesses sought to make improvements to their operating procedures and hit enterprise goals. Company by company, innovation takes many forms –a WMS implementation, an analysis and modeling of a supplier sourcing network, or even the exploration of multi-modal transportation solutions. Today, the accelerating pace and potential of technological innovation is astounding, and already breaking ground, positively disrupting status quo and company processes the world over. There are many, but to name a few key technologies seeking to revolutionize SOPs and blaze new trails—blockchain, artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, drones, and 3D-printing are entering the playing field to tackle complexity with orchestration. Though widespread adoption has yet to be fully realized to scale, innovation in the technology space is gaining key ground and will certainly become commonplace in many operations (if not most), in the next 5 years. And it will be huge.
IMPACT of Artificial Intelligence, Automation, & Blockchain
As enablers, these technologies are highly adaptable and serve a variety of applications that will hugely influence the manner that supply chains are architected. Machine learning is capable of creating an efficient insight feedback loop, affording operators the ability to make safer, more accurate, and more predictive decisions and optimize processes and links in supply chains. Planning, manufacturing, inventory management, visibility, processing speed, and security will all adapt and showcase significant evolution across the industry as we know it.
"It will be the responsibility of both the tech providers and businesses within the supply chain arena to keep their finger on the pulse of the swift and constant developments as newer technology continues to emerge"
IMPACT of Robotics, 3D-Printing, & Drones
A good number of technologies are already in development and in beta with the goal of finding ways to complement human processes and operators, creating remarkable advancements in labor force efficiency. As time is always of the essence, there are certain vertical industries researching and discovering better ways to deploy resources—both in-house teams and the technology to enable marked improvement in production throughput, to reduce manufacturing or keying errors, and to further eliminate unnecessary by products and various waste forms.
As 2019 comes to an end, many will be eagerly anticipating 2020 and its promise of a smarter tomorrow. Though excited, all would agree that new, innovative technology only guarantees one constant: change. The open-minded companies ready to embrace it may be lauded as pioneers, but all businesses will need to take a measured approach to stay within the walls of tolerable risk. If properly managed, we could be in for a wild ride as the industry charts new territory. Full steam ahead.
How & Challenges
Quite obviously, it won’t be as simple as plug-and-play. Tech companies will need to understand and spec their clients’ business requirements at as-is state in addition to the forecast down the road. They will most certainly need to produce practical solutions that address key concerns of companies taking their first steps: investment, time & production slow-downs, training, implementation, and the impact to deployed resources and the labor force the technology is designed to complement. What’s more is that it will be the responsibility of both the tech providers and businesses within the supply chain arena to keep their finger on the pulse of the swift and constant developments as newer technology continues to emerge.
Better, Faster, Cheaper
Many companies eyeing tech to be more agile, aligned, and informed will find they need to go back to the drawing board to determine desired outcomes and plan on how to hit that mark. It is an immensely exciting time in the industry and all will need to continue to be prudent in making the best decisions for their businesses and establish ideal applications, deployment, and allocation as all of us edge closer to adopting and leveraging these emerging tools to thrive with competitive advantage in the new era.