Supply chain, in reality, is much more than the supply of physical goods and this calls for robust processes and operations to be able to keep pace with the digitally transformed world.
On the one hand, digital technologies have brought about a fundamental shift in consumer behaviours in recent years but events like the current pandemic crisis have left the world grappling with uncertainties. The supply chain industry is experiencing challenges of its own. The next few years are critical to adopting and managing the challenges these tough times bring with them. The economies across the world have experienced a slowdown and to what extent the supply-chain industry will respond to this is still unfolding. The industry should recognize, anticipate and prepare for challenges when implementing a digital model.
The rate of supply chain digitization so far has been comparatively low. Only a few companies in this domain have been able to unlock the full potential. If technologies are not in place to support operations, the positive impact of digitization will be reversed, thus doing more harm than good. While implementing technology should be the focus area, top-down support will ensure smooth implementation of the supply-chain digitization process. In fact, these technologies can reach as far as small farmers, says Carlo Bravi, an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) senior economist. “These technologies will eventually come to the small farmers, but by making sure the right conditions are in place, in terms of capacity and infrastructure and so on, we can accelerate that process,” he said.
For the supply chain industry to take advantage of the digital era, the existing models need to be continuously enhanced by creating a balance between traditional systems and emerging technologies taking into consideration end-to-end business strategies and processes. According to a recent survey, technologies including robotics and automation, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, predictive analytics, drones, and driverless vehicles have the potential to exploit digital technologies and bring in a cultural shift in the industry.
Technology vendors and service providers have realized the shortfalls and are now providing an ever-expanding solution that has led to the upsurge of supply chain efficiency.
Predictive analysis tools have made it easier to compile large unstructured data sets to draw insights; tracing the hidden cause of a problem and predicting consumer behaviors and risks to taking the right measures. Right tools have helped managers upskill and put major data-backed decisions in action. Not just at the top level of strategy building, these technologies have helped in a greater way in other departments too.
Robotics and automation have helped in the areas of picking, sorting, inspecting, storing, handling, and classifying products in the warehouses and factories. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, in the next five years, 73% of these operations on the ground may be managed by robots.
Artificial Intelligence has helped ensure greater flexibility and faster delivery of goods. It has also led to better analytics, automating, and monitoring the performance of warehouse management, advanced planning, better deployment of ERP systems, thus making the entire process precise and more tailored to specific needs.
Unmanned vehicles and drones are disrupting the industry like never before leading to improved efficiency. The rate of growth is slow but consistent.
Application of traceability in the supply chain management allows the products to be tracked from source to consumer, connecting all the points in the chain. This helps to keep track of the entire process. Supply chain traceability is thus the process of tracking the provenance and journey of products and their inputs, from the beginning to the end of the supply chain. For companies who want to claim that their products are sustainably sourced and produced, traceability is an opportunity to credibly make and verify claims. SourceTrace’s digital technology platform DATAGREEN includes a solution in supply chain management. This software solution delivers precision tracking of the components of your supply chain from farm to retail, allowing you to plan your harvest schedules in order to meet demand.
Today, digital innovation using cutting-edge technologies have transformed the way supply chains operate at the enterprise level and global level. Collection, compilation, processing of information, and extracting insights to support decision making and automating other processes by reducing redundancies has helped drive operational excellence.
These technologies are still continually evolving.
Bob Wright, executive director at SCALA, a supply chain and logistics management company, explains: “The sales and commercial teams have a key role to play in supporting and contributing to an aligned approach on customer relationship management, order management and demand planning.”
The scope of these technologies is diverse and so are the obstacles that come with it. One of the biggest challenges the companies face is the workforce shortage of skilled manpower. Other challenges include trust and security in new technologies as they require huge investments. Adopting these innovations can be challenging and complex for the organizations but if they do, unlocking greater benefits of improved customer satisfaction awaits.
The global supply chain analytics market is expected to reach $9.88 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. As the global economy becomes more conducive to these new technologies, smarter, quicker and real-time insights will be the key to thrive in the industry.
The experts also predict that integration of blockchain with AI, IoT, analytics will create an unimaginable impact in the way supply chains are managed.
To take advantage of these technologies, the need of the hour is to assess, analyze, and expose the challenges from the grassroots level and prepare a transformation roadmap for the next few years.
To begin with, organizations have to
strengthen the business model.
encourage a data-driven culture across the organization.
start automating the processes.
start finding people with the right skill sets and upskilling the existing employees to be able to retain them.
enable all departments from manufacturing to sales to be able to see the vision and future with these emerging technologies to be able to help them be better decision-makers.
Modern technology will not just help to eliminate redundancies, but will also minimize costs in the long-run with better performance, shorter delivery times and improved customer satisfaction among others. A comprehensive vision in-line with transformation roadmap is bound to capture and unlock the full value of digital innovations in supply chain management.
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