Feb 5 2021
Article

Tech to Change the Supply Chain Forever

Written by Peter Evans
Are robots the future of supply chain?

One of the dirtiest yet most used words in supply chain management might is ‘disruption’, but what would the world be without change? With crisis typically comes innovation.

Let’s take a look at the technologies that will shape the limitless future of supply chain strategy and operations.

Yesterday

In the past, companies employed supply chain management systems that relied heavily on technological expertise and data-centric firms to manage these systems. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) data was forged into spreadsheets or macros which allowed visibility of what has happened within supply chain processes, leading to guesswork for predictions – but a failing to answer the crucial questions of ‘why and how’.

If we have learned anything from a worldwide pandemic and the potential damage of an intrusive and interruptive universal crisis, year-on-year analytics is an indeterminate means to an end and a gamble that might not pay off!

Today

Now, we employ digital, demand-driven enterprise, where the system, once set up, can run with ease without employing the expensive services of an in-house IT department or outsourcing to IT firms like before. We can choose from many end-to-end cloud system suites that can see across the entire operation of processes to more accurately predict and scale to a demand-driven business model.

Tomorrow

Thinking of tomorrow when considering supply chain management is essential. The next-generation system must have interpretive and dynamic scalability for today and tomorrow with growth and expansion in mind to avoid disruption.

The supply chain needs to be where the hub of the industry st must be about the technology.

Endorsed by IDC’s (International Data Corporation) research, MIT Sloan mentions five top technologies to change supply chain as we know it. These top technologies are:

connected supply chain global image

IoT

IDC predicts substantial “annual growth for worldwide IoT spending through 2022”. Consider IoT for fleet and freight management potential to track at-risk products, such as perishable groceries or live goods, and the ability to monitor business operations processes within the entire supply chain.

While praising the potential, Stuart Madnick, emeritus professor of information technologies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, warns against the risks of IoT, such as cybersecurity. “The risk isn’t just in data attacks, but physical dangers” too. It is important to be briefed fully before incorporating change.

Blockchain

“A lot of early blockchain supply chain use cases are food-related.” Blockchain and the food industry are a match made in heaven when it comes to food safety, product integrity, traceability, and sustainability in supply chain management.

The problem with blockchain technology is that it’s not singular. It relies on industry-level mobilisation and implementation to realise its full potential. Competition must give way to collaboration to see massive benefits.

Using blockchain technology requires the creation of supply chain partner ecosystems which nec

essitates trust and good faith. The big picture for the food industry begs us to weigh the positive potential of blockchain technology against its negative potential.

machine learning

AI, machine learning, and analytics

Formulating algorithms to analyse and apply large-scale data across the supply chain network, not only to make projections, manage inventory, trace delivery, control quality, and improve customer experience but to optimise the value of these processes with real-time intel.

Robots and automation

The major consideration with robots and automation is not that they will take over the world and render their human counterparts obsolete; it is ensuring good and accurate data is inputted into these systems so that they can successfully assist the human workforce with their powerful and time-saving precision.

Think of automated technology as ‘cobots’, collaborative robots aiding the human contingent in the supply chain puzzle within the warehouse and transport, e.g. automated vehicles and Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva robots, to carry heavy loads and pallets of product to human workers.

3d printing

3D printing

Onsite or localised production of 3D-printable products eases the burden on the supply chain and offers emerging services such as personalisation and made-to-order goods that may strain the chain otherwise. Especially with the likes of COVID-related disruptions we have faced recently, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize local production of more than just plastic materials.

Emerging tech and innovative materials, e.g. metal additives, can be made nearer to the final mile that will make an exponential difference to supply and demand, decrease lead times, cut costs, reduce carbon footprint, and aid local economy.

And more

Add to this list clean, quality data-gathering, upskilling of top-notch staff to provide it, and sustainability through circular supply chain systems, that are eco-friendly and recycling-capable, and we are onto a world-class, winning supply chain strategy to take the food and beverage industry into the future for years to come.

The result

It might seem risky when it comes to change, especially going into the new year during and after a pandemic, but refusing to adjust with change is riskier still. Trying to patch up the old system’s flaws will not help against further disruptions.

So how do you achieve innovative, new thriving business? By selecting the right business solutions platform that will deliver the goods in the best way to get you there. Choosing Orderly’s supply chain technology will invest your company with the economic, sustainable, local and global enterprise to lead you from today into tomorrow.