3d color printed partsThe advent of 3D printing for production at scale seems to be getting closer to reality. Sure 3D printers have been used for prototyping and remote delivery of pre-production items. And creating one-off parts and custom designs is becoming increasingly common. But forward thinking companies see a future in which goods are delivered by high volume 3D printers that can match manufacturing quantities and lower costs by using generic production materials that are printed in the shapes and quantities needed. That vision is not yet a reality but at least one company is delivering the first wave of production scale printers.

heroSupply chain managers are not generally considered to be heroic in their daily efforts. Sure, there are plenty of difficult issues they tackle all the time, but the individual things they take care of generally amount to keeping the business running on schedule - in other words, doing what they were hired to do. Supply chain managers can make themselves more important to their organizations by thinking ahead of their daily operations and keeping an eye on these 4 areas of concern that are already emerging in 2018.

hybrid cloudYour manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, and retail channels are all perking along just fine. You have a great team handling your EDI transactions and managing exceptions and your trading partner relationships are in good shape. So what could go wrong and threaten all the good work you’ve done?

crumbling retailThe business news is full of bleak outlooks or bankruptcies for a number of big retail stores, with iconic Toys ‘R’ Us one of the latest casualties. The crumbling of several brick-and-mortar giants continues during the rise of e-commerce, led by Amazon. Some of those still in business are attempting to improve their online capabilities as a way to compete better in the changing landscape. Walmart, for example, plans to open fewer stores so it can focus on e-commerce while enhancing existing stores. Target has been building out its digital offerings, with same- and next-day delivery services being tested.

broken chainThe answer is that you should be caring about the security of your supply chain more now than you ever have. In fact supply chains have had a relative free period for many years because… well, because it’s a supply chain and not something hackers can easily monetize. But the games and the stakes have changed.

sustainability 0When we hear about ‘sustainability’ the idea immediately conjurs up images of green trees and recycled paper. And that’s pretty much been the focus of sustainability initiatives around the world for years. But recently the term has become much broader both in ways people think about sustainability and supply chain sustainability, software is helping address the issues.

supply chain aiSupply chain transactions, mostly in the form of EDI transactions, generate huge amounts of data. But the advent of IoT devices, RFID tags, and retail sales transactions are making what seemed to be unimaginable volumes of data unmanageable and as useless as when the records were simply deleted after they had served their purpose. Analytics was supposed to be the answer but even that has turned out to be insufficient. Artificial intelligence is stepping in to extend analytics and add action to its insights.

qrcodeBar codes have been with us for a while now and their application makes tracking products and processing sales simple. For grocers it has meant the demise of the label gun and the need to update price stickers every time costs changed. But the traditional bar-type label has been supplanted by the higher density QR code that can store much more information in smaller spaces and now a new innovation lets suppliers put code directly on edible products.

vechainThere’s plenty of volitility in the standard international monetary market where exchange rates can vary based on any number of factors. And the recent enormous swings in the value of the most visible crypto currency, BitCoin, are enough to drive money managers running from the concept. But let’s not get confused between crypto currencies, blockchain, and speculation.

Supply Chain TechnologyYour supply chain has changed over the last couple years. Chances are that you’ve made technology improvements on your end but even if you haven’t changed a thing, some segments of your chain have changed and while each tech improvement likely made a positive change for the company that implemented it, you may not be getting any of the benefits. Here are the technologies that are creeping into the supply chain and what you should look for so you might be able to leverage those improvements for your own benefit.