Your 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.
There are plenty of buzz words in technology and marketers will attempt to attach them to any business effort they think will listen. So this list touches on the buzz words that are certainly being mentioned by supply chain tech providers. Whether any of them can be profitably applied to your efforts depends entirely on how you and your trading partners use them.
Blockchain - Basically a secure and distributed database but not a product in itself. It’s been widely associated with Bitcoin but is as independent from any financial process as is SQL database technology. Just know that when a vendor mentions blockchain as part of their pitch, it may be a more secure way of storing data but it doesn’t necessarily impact functionality.
3D printing - Right now 3D printing is great for creating prototypes or one-off customized items. But for those singular items it’s tough to negate its potential impact. Mass produced items will continue to be made with traditional methods but products that are individualized ranging from poured concrete houses to plastic repair parts can be printed on site, skipping the delays of packaging and shipping.
IoT - The Internet of Things is probably the fastest growing segment of tech implementation in terms of numbers of units; expected to reach 20 billion within 2 years. The broad category includes tracking devices for shipments, real time sensors that alert to temperature changes, and remote control based on intelligent sensors.
AI - Artificial Intelligence is making real inroads turning all that big data we’ve been collecting into actionable suggestions. The tech behind AI is the new ‘rocket science’ in that it requires training and experience as well as powerful computers to grind through ever-growing piles of data looking for patterns we don’t even know to look for.
Chat bots - Closely linked to AI, these bots are changing how consumers interact with support and ordering systems by analyzing conversations and delivering real and useful responses. They are reducing the loads on call centers and making online ordering better for both consumers and retailers.
This list changes every day and supply chain practitioners should connect with their trading partners to understand what is being done along their chain and how each segment can take advantage to coordinate efforts. There are lots of opportunities with these growing technologies.