faruk kaymak 599961 unsplashIBM has made two big announcement recently. One is a technology play that brings brings cloud computing up another level and the other is one that brings blockchain technology to reality for the supply chain. While both are independent from a business standpoint they will inevitibly come together in ways that may not be obvious at the moment.

global supply chain franck v 512310 unsplashIt is well known that China has been the biggest producer of goods for many years. From children’s school supplies to the contents of every handyman’s toolbox, “Made in China” is found in small print. However, China’s labor costs, much due to its economic growth from manufacturing, have risen to the point that the competition from nearby Asian countries is taking some of that manufacturing business. These shifts, along many others over the last two decades, have been heavily influenced by the conglomerate Alibaba, affecting the supply chain of companies worldwide.

max capacity chuttersnap 255211 unsplashIt’s a snowball rolling downhill once a supply chain interruption happens – but what if there was a way to pivot before any disruption to the chain occurs? AI brings new meaning to system integration, and it’s a dramatic shift to the current approach which is a manual process, one that is sometimes sluggish and cumbersome. Including Artificial Intelligence into the supply chain creates an all-seeing rapid-response level of protection against problems that typically halt production. For example, the following is a common scenario:

casey horner flowImagine if you could always see your whole supply chain, pinpoint at any time which distributor or location from which it’s best to purchase materials, and then determine immediately which of all the sites is best to produce the material? The result would streamline the supply chain, and with AI, it’s possible.

big dataBig data has the potentials to be of great benefits to an organization. It is much more than just data; rather it is an engine that boosts the performance of an organization in a stable, seamless, and sustainable way. Big data brings your supply chain a broad view of all happenings while at the same time narrowing them down to serve each customer’s specific need.

voice recognitionIf you have an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device in your home or office it’s no surprise that voice command has become powerful and accurate. But for the most part voice is still part of the consumer realm. Part of the reason may be because enterprises are not entirely comfortable allowing voice control of orders and process at the scale of business. But it seems that the trend is expanding as companies like HighJump and other supply chain software providers explore adding capabilities to their platforms.

block chain supply chainMuch has been said about the potential for blockchain, the technology underpinning digital currencies like bitcoin, to revolutionise a variety of industries, from voting to fashion to education. Despite this, critics are often quick to point out that many of the proposed use cases for the technology are still years from becoming a reality. However, as an encrypted digital ledger that records all activity that occurs over it, both publicly and chronologically, there is one area where blockchain is already having an impact: global supply chains.

full cloud adoptionIn many ways the supply chain is the perfect type business to adopt cloud technologies. And in fact it may have been one of the first to do so when VANs began receiving, storing, and forwarding the very first orders between trading partners. So is it any surprise that IDC expects taht 80% of supply chain interactions will be cloud based by 2020?

Transportation heroIn early August, IBM and Maersk unveiled TradeLens, a global trade blockchain platform seeking to bring efficiency and transparency to international shipping. After months of testing with port operators, customs authorities, logistics companies, and carriers, TradeLens hopes to be fully commercially available by the end of 2018. The platform is being billed as an open and neutral ecosystem, designed to integrate with other Hyperledger Fabric blockchains. While only time will tell if IBM and Maersk are truly dedicated to collaboration, the possibility of multiple blockchain platforms interacting and integrating could revolutionize shipping from the open ocean to the open road.

blockchainIf you’re paying any attention at all to news stories about supply chain you’re noticing that a single issue is vying for your attention. I’ve been mentioning blockchain myself quite a bit, but with a slightly jaded view. Here’s what I’m seeing most recently.