Digitalization has been the talk of the town in any business function ranging from marketing, finance, operations to procurement and supply chain. Industry 4.0 has been the most significant driver for digitalization in organizations that augment the management’s capabilities to improve efficiency and productivity. Industry 4.0 incorporates various game-changing technologies ranging from Internet of Things (IoT), cloud-based systems, and data analytics. The advent of such technologies has changed the way how supply chain and logistics department functions. It has also contributed to saving time for operations professionals by automating mundane tasks. The future looks bright for supply chain digitalization with ideas from the automated warehouse and robotics to drone delivery looming around. So how is technology unfolding in the area of digital supply chain and what trends are set to gain traction in the coming years?
Traditionally, procurement and supply chain information existed in silos and managers from one department had less transparency of other departments. The digital supply chain will be marked by the ability to understand activities and events of multiple players. Digital supply chains will augment to such a level that transparency will increase not only for internal stakeholders but also for external supply chain partners. One day, the technology will advance to enable global trading network or global commerce hubs.
A typical supply chain generates a huge amount of data, and with so much data available, advanced analytics seems to be the perfect candidate for in-depth analysis. The advancement in data storage and processing technologies has enabled companies to crunch mountains of data within minutes and not months. The power of such advanced analytics can be utilized in areas such as making buying decisions, inventory planning, supplier network optimization, and supplier collaboration. It will significantly help companies in improving productivity and reducing the cost.
AI and robotic automation
The world of the supply chain may see personal assistant such as Alexa and Siri on the consumer-facing side. Such an AI personal assistant will be able to give instant information into the company’s supply chain and help managers track the progress of their operations. Additionally, AI and automation systems can enhance workforce productivity by performing repetitive tasks such as supplier on-boarding, assisting with invoice compliance, and processing help-desk orders. Such automated digital supply chain will shorten lead times, eliminate errors, and improves stakeholder experiences.
Transportation management system (TMS) is one of the crucial parts of any logistics network. Cloud TMS can provide remote monitoring to logistics professionals and the ability to track progress along the supply chain. Cloud TMS also eliminates the troubles of on-premise deployment and breaks silos to create an interconnected network of 3PL providers, carriers, and matching providers. Cloud TMS has the ability to develop into a central marketplace which offers a connection to all stakeholders in a supply chain.
Apart from technologies like IoT and data analytics, which evolves from the software part, technologies like mobile robotics can also significantly improve workforce productivity. It will allow warehouses to reduce labor requirements and help DCs keep pace with the current e-commerce growth. The use of mobile robotics may not be limited to material handling but also in automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Mobile robotics/smart AGVs that can carry or pull materials to workstations, or function as smart, driverless lift trucks which would alleviate the manpower needs at the DC level, and allow for DC automation which is quicker to install and reconfigure.
For more trends in the digital supply chain, IoT systems, and big data analytics: