• The latest supply chain technological trends majorly focus on new-age and smart technologies like IoT, AI, blockchain, RPA, and so much more, to have seamless and hassle-free management of supply flows while cutting down the operating costs.
Right from product development to its sale, organizations have to pay special attention to streamlining the internal activities for creating an impact on the organization’s bottom line. For offering expeditious service to customers and to gain competitive advantage in the market, in this fast-paced digital world, companies should revise their supply chain activities and services with a focus on appropriate business strategies and state-of-the-art technologies. Technologies will enhance the speed, dynamics, and resilience of internal, as well as, external supply chain operations, which will, in turn, strengthen customer relationships, leading to increased revenue flow.
Let’s see some key supply chain technological trends, which will soon redefine the current practices, thereby helping companies experience operation efficiencies, market valuation, and financial growth.
IoT (Internet of Things)
In the supply chain and logistics space, IoT acts as a highly revolutionary technological solution, providing great earning opportunities, high-level transparency, and streamlined processes.
- Asset tracking – All these years, the most commonly followed methods for asset tracking were sequence numbers and barcodes. But with IoT, companies can expedite the process of tracking goods, while adding more transparency too. With IoT sensors and cameras, product developers can not only get data on the location of the product but also get granular data on its status, at any point. For example, the concerned authorities can check the time the product reached the store from the airport, the temperature the product was being stored at, if the quality of the product was being compromised anywhere, and so much more.
Right from the point of manufacturing to the point of consumption, IoT sensors gives a clear picture of how the product is being treated on its journey to the store or customer. This way, companies can get a tight hold of the product flow, which will ultimately allow speedy deliveries, thereby enhancing customer experience.
- Fleet management – Along with asset tracking, another prominent place where IoT helps supply chain professionals is in connecting the fleets and tracking the shipments. Companies have to ensure that all their means of transportation or carriers are connected with each other. For example, if there is a delay in taking off , then the vehicle driver should be notified in advance. The driver can then use the precious time to accomplish some other task rather than just wait. IoT helps companies achieve such time effectiveness. Besides, IoT sensors can help companies to track other factors like driver idle time, driving pattern, vehicle speed, or time taken to reach the store.
Wearables present a great opportunity to transform the business aspect of the supply chain and logistics industry. Inevitable product downtime causes huge revenue loss to organizations playing in the segment of logistics and supply chain. To avoid such a situation, product inspectors have to keep track of the product on a daily basis. Today, we have technologies helping us mitigate or prevent this issue. Better inspection of goods is now possible with immersive technologies. Product inspectors can wear AR glasses, walk around the factory and check for any technical fault. The maintenance team can then take concrete and proactive steps if any glitch is detected.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
AI brings in huge potential in the supply chain space, right from anticipating orders to helping in the transportation of products. In 2016, 47% of supply chain professionals believed “that AI is disruptive and important with respect to supply chain strategies.”
Chatbots, one of the most incredible applications of AI, has already found its home in various B2B areas. But here in the supply chain space, chatbots have great potential to disrupt B2B functionalities too. Chatbots can accurately handle all the paperwork. Without getting tired or bored, chatbots can work 24*7 with high-level accuracy, efficiency, and speed. Right from taking all the cold calls to tracking the order details to taking care of invoices and transactions, chatbots can play the role of assistants precisely.
Autonomous cars, another great application of AI, are soon going to hit the roads. With these cars going mainstream, we will see supply chain professionals using self-driving cars for the transportation of goods, which will require no human inputs. No human intervention means fewer errors, reduced accident rates, and lesser delivery issues. Timely deliveries will prominently enhance customer experience. Big players like Rolls Royce and Google have already partnered to develop autonomous ships that are expected to sail by 2020.
Blockchain and the supply chain industry make a ‘power couple’. High-level traceability with minimal involvement of middlemen is an important need of the supply chain industry. And blockchain helps companies achieve this need.
As soon as we place an order for a product, we await its arrival. We check the shipment details every now and then. With blockchain, we can track the status of the product in real-time. We can retrieve the exact location of our package. Blockchain allows supply chain professionals and courier companies to update a blockchain ledger in real-time, which helps customers to track their products by themselves. The reasons for delay can also be recorded on blockchain, which helps customers to have better visibility on why a product is arriving late.
Smart contracts, one of the applications of blockchain, have built-in automation, which makes a lot of sense for transaction and payment management. With the help of smart contracts, sellers can payments to the middlemen when the product reaches the factory. There will be no need for a separate team to work on raising invoices and carrying out transactions.
RPA (Robotic Process Automation)
RPA, software robots backed with high-level ML capabilities and cognitive potential, opens up a host of opportunities for the supply chain industry. RPA replaces all the manual, labor-intensive, time-consuming, error-prone business operations while allowing employees to focus on high-quality jobs. In our case, RPA helps the supply chain companies to automate their back office activities, optimize their productivity, and facilitate smooth movement of goods. Let’s list down a few activities that can easily be handled by RPA in the supply chain scenario:
- Order processing and transactions
- Order tracking with clients
- Email automation
- Internal reporting
- Supplier reporting
Irrespective of the movement of goods via any medium of transportation, the supply chain and logistics industry has a plethora of beneficial and exciting opportunities offered by new-age technologies to fit into the rapidly changing market circumstances and fulfill the heightened customer expectations. But before companies leverage these trending technologies, they should primarily analyze which technology will best fit their business needs, identify specific requirements for technology adoption, identify relevant solutions to fill in the missing gaps, and then adopt supply chain technological trends to profit immensely.