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2019 Check-in: The Adoption of Essential Supply Chain Trends Featured

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We’re a little over halfway through 2019 —a good time to look back at my predictions for the supply chain industry, including where we are in artificial intelligence (AI) adoption, the need for better data to drive predictability, and the uberization of freight. Earlier in the year discussions and reports indicated that a responsive, real-time supply chain would be the key differentiator among businesses as the year progresses. However, this isn’t a particularly new prediction — we’ve been heralding such an arrival for at least a decade — and Gartner noted that despite their broad industry impact, such technologies have yet to be widely adopted. Slow adoption could be due to significant business and technological changes or limitations around its own capabilities, but it begs the question, how will these trends become reality if organizations can’t implement the advancements necessary to create a more efficient and effective supply chain?

Heading into 2019, I had predicted that we were really going to hit our stride in supply chain adoption of AI, and while we are close to greater adoption, there is really no question about its great potential. The challenge is making AI domain specific to the supply chain and using it to drive real value across the entire business. To succeed, let’s take another look at this prediction and a few others to determine how organizations can truly implement the advanced technology we predicted would take over just six months back.

Better Data, Better Predictions

As discussed early on in 2019, predictive analytics will still prove to be very useful to optimize resources within the supply chain. Combined with AI and machine learning, data is the driver for predictive capabilities. With more informed predictions, future performances can be optimized based on historical results along with known and unknown data points that technology can provide in real-time. Pulling this information together to create a collaborative external view of the supply chain will positively impact every aspect of the supply chain, from sourcing and compliance, to production and quality control. Data is just information. It is what is done with the data that makes an impact.

 In order to fully embrace the value of predictive analytics as the year progresses, it will be essential for an organization to establish a strong foundation upon which to build a digital supply chain. It will also be necessary for companies to develop a strategy of execution to properly take advantage of these advancements. They must identify a vision, assess the supply chain’s current state, and develop a transformation road map to ensure success.

AI’s Supply Chain Moment

We still expect AI and machine learning to become more integrated with every aspect of the supply chain. Adoption is slow but we know anecdotally that it is growing. AI integration will enable the automation of repetitive tasks and bring intelligence to supply chain networks and systems. AI and machine learning are both required to get the most out of Natural Language Processing. NLP provides many benefits to the supply chain including understanding and mitigating potential risks with supply chain stakeholders, ensuring compliance, monitoring reputations of supply chain organizations, and reducing language barriers.

With that said, the complexity of human language requires smart algorithms and self-teaching systems to parse and understand language, and provide appropriate responses and actions. For organizations to implement successfully in 2019, they should consider the following:

  • Provide information in a consistent way.
  • Where possible, supply chain software should integrate with supplier and manufacturer systems to automatically collect and process data.
  • Check and audit supply chain information periodically to ensure quality.

Uberization of Freight

This year, new platforms are still expected to power increasingly-connected truckers and LTL providers into the gig economy. As technology evolves and becomes more widely adopted, we expect business models to evolve as well, which has the potential to drastically disrupt the trucking industry. Technology will help reduce the amount of empty miles driven, and with that the number of drivers needed. Fewer trucks on the road lead to less of an impact on the environment. In addition, the movement of freight becomes more like a marketplace, a real-time part of the supply chain much like Uber has become for consumers by providing real-time inventory orchestration and allocation for inventory in motion and at rest.

To prepare and actually take advantage of these new platforms in 2019, organizations should work to drive information transparency, tracking of goods and optimization. When properly analyzed, this data is helpful for identifying patterns and areas for optimization, to fuel better planning and resource utilization.

As the supply chain becomes more fragmented, digital transformation and bringing stakeholders onto a common platform will provide significant benefits - but this won’t necessarily be easy to accomplish. If organizations want to continue to transform their supply chains, it’s not too late to implement the top strategic supply chain technologies of 2019.

Pervinder Johar, CEO of Blume Global joined Blume Global with a deep and diverse background in supply chain management and technology. He has led top software companies providing innovative solutions to the global supply chain industry as well as managed global supply chain systems for companies such as HP. Leveraging his expertise in AI, Robotics Process Automation, Machine Learning and Blockchain, Pervinder is guiding Blume’s next wave of transformative solutions for the Supply Chain Marketplace.

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