Supply Chain management is becoming more complex every year. The greatest influences come from the rapid globalization of all supply chains.
Globalized supply chain networks are impacted by potential risk in delays and confusions. This forces analytics managers to put more attention to planning and to include contingency planning and management. These and other new challenges create pressure on the adoption of new technologies to ensure the best performance, leading to high customer satisfaction levels.
What are today’s main challenges within the supply chain?
- Increased costs: A report by eyefortransport (EFT) shows that every supplier across the chain is expecting increased expenditure. A higher financial outlay across a supply chain is deemed to be one of the two top challenges. Keeping costs low with maintaining high quality is a difficult balancing act.
- Meeting customer expectations in a digital economy (including omni-channel support): The second key challenge identified in the EFT report is managing customer expectations, especially via omni-channel support. Multiple channel communication is now a customer requirement that must be supported. This also includes channel shifts to a more personalized, direct to customer model.
- Risk management: Visibility issues across an extended and complex supply chain increase the risk of accidental or malicious incidents. The challenge in protecting the chain against cyber-attacks is complicated, as hyper-connectivity and data driven chains become the norm. Data generated and used by the supply chain is at risk of exposure and manipulation. Data protection also comes under the umbrella of various regulations.
- Streamlining and optimizing the chain: This is a vital requirement for chain efficiency and reduced failure points, as the chain becomes more complex across multiple partners. Streamlining leads to shorter lead times and reduced inventory costs.
Innovative technological solutions, such as automation and AI advanced analytics can provide support in tackling these challenges. Here are five major trends that can help supply chains move to a Supply Chain 4.0 model.
Meeting the challenges with 5 technology trends
Industry 4.0 has forced a rethink in the design of supply chains. New technologies provide the tools to evolve our supply chain models alongside the requirements.
Predicated on IoT, automation, and robotics, Industry 4.0 is transforming our supply chains. Gartner Inc., predicts that by 2023, 50% of large global companies will be using AI, advanced analytics, and IoT in their supply chain operations in order to:
Improve transparency in information flows
Reduce costs in transactions
Enable companies to better analyze data, predict requirements, and optimize inventory levels
The following technology trends can help to add much needed innovative solutions to supply chains to meet modern and global demands.
Trend 1: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its sub-set, Machine Learning (ML), are used in areas such as decision support for obsolete inventory management. The ability for ML to decipher trends and patterns from data across the supply chain makes it ideal for optimization. Analyst firm, Forrester, recently carried out a worldwide study of over 400 supply chain, procurement, and finance business leaders. The result of the survey showed that 55% of organizations will turn to AI before the end of 2019, with the intention of making large investments.
Trend 2: Advanced Predictive Analytics
The supply chain produces vast amounts of data. Predictive analytics tools can be used to interpret data. Predictive analytics is expected to become increasingly applied to the supply chain to inform better operation decisions and streamline operations. To confirm this trend, a Gartner Inc. study found that 96% of respondents use predictive analytics. Of these, 58% use predictive and prescriptive analytics for augmenting human supply chain decisions, whilst 50% use the technology to automate decision making.
Trend 3: IoT
Supply chain ecosystems embrace the Internet of Things (IoT). The sensors within IoT devices, measure things such as location, movement, temperature, humidity, and many other factors. Some example uses of IoT in supply chains include asset tracking, inventory management, and fleet management. The market growth of IoT in logistics is expected to be at a CAGR of 13.6% to 2024.
Trend 4: Robotics and Autonomous Operations
By 2022, 938,000 robotic units are expected to work alongside their human counterparts. The robotization of processes and equipment within buildings, as well as autonomous driving, is likely to have a fundamental impact on mobility and infrastructure within existing supply chain and logistics operations. Robotics and automation can be used to improve speed and accuracy. In addition, low-value everyday tasks within supply chain operations can be streamlined and human errors minimized to reduce risks.
Trend 5: Process Mining
A process is simply a group of interconnected activities. Process mining teases out the details by using big data analytics. International Data Corporation (IDC), predicts that spending on digital transformation will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, by 2019; this is a massive increase of 42% from 2017. Driving this is improved productivity and revenue generation. IDC is stating that “All digitally transformed organizations will generate at least 45% of their revenue from “Future of Commerce” business models by 2019. In these models, process mining tools offer powerful ways to audit, analyze, and improve existing operations with objective, fact-based insights derived from the very transactional data that supply chains generate and use.
Companies which started supply chain transformation programs with digitalization as one of the main drivers, could see major savings in the transportation or inventory management area. Our experiences show that such companies can reduce operating costs from 8 to 13 percent.
We believe the presented technologies will be the foundation of the new era of Supply Chain 4.0. Adoption of such innovations into a supply chain will future-proof businesses and help to overcome the current challenges; rewarding those who invest in change with reduced costs, managed risk, and happier customers.