The consumer world seems overwhelmingly digital. From smartphones and smartwatches to IoT devices like thermostats and Amazon Alexa we’re constantly and instantly connected. But what about the supply chain? Is every order initiated by an automated function and passed along at light speed to the manufacturer who instructs their robots to build the order and put it on a pallet?

IotIt wasn’t long ago that Apple was lauded for its finesse in managing its supply chain. Getting its bazillions of iPhones from China to the US and everywhere else required some groundbreaking advances and a lot of tight controls. Those lessons have gone mainstream as the world took notice and of the company’s strategies and success. And partly because of that expansion, the supply chain now extends to areas as unexpected as social media.

iot supply chainYou already know that IoT is a term used to loosely identify items that have been imbued with enough intelligence and communication abilities to send messages across the internet. First of all, this means that these items are not human in the ways we normally think of humans using computers to send information via the Internet. But that doesn't mean that some of these 'things' can't be humans, or at least humans carrying with devices that do the communicating for them. The connections and the information are triggered by conditions as they change.

supply-chain-data-management-300x200Today’s supply chain is no stranger to big data, at least not when it comes to generating it. Think about the millions of transactions passed between trading partners every day that are triggered by the billions of register transactions caused by retail sales. These deluges of data have been both the lifeblood of the supply chain and part of its biggest challenges.

3d printer3D printers are available to everyone with even a small budget. That means that even though what they produce may not be up to the quality level you would manufacture or sell yourself, the ability to directly control, modify, and create items is moving to consumers. And they are taking advantage of these small printers matched with predefined designs and low cost design services.