From using artificial intelligence to robotic systems, supply chains have been evolving continuously over time. The supply chains are adopting smart, tech-driven solutions to reduce operating costs and improve efficiency in their processes. These technologies also help improve business connectivity and provide better visibility across the supply chains. Here is a list of 6 technologies that are or will be used to create seamless supply chains:
- Artificial Intelligence – The term artificial intelligence (AI) refers to any human-like intelligence exhibited by a computer, robot, or another machine. In popular usage, artificial intelligence refers to the ability of a computer or machine to mimic the capabilities of the human mind to perform functions a human might perform, such as greeting a hotel guest or driving a car. A recent study by McKinsey found that 61% of executives reported decreased cost as a direct result of introducing AI into their supply chains, with 53% reporting increased revenues. AI in supply chains can be broken down into two categories:
– Augmentation: AI that assists the supply chain professionals with their day-to-day tasks and help reduce errors
– Automation: AI that functions autonomously without any human intervention
Some ways in which AI is helping improve supply chains:
a. Supply Chain Planning Using Machine Learning – Implementing machine learning in supply chain planning helps in optimizing the decision-making process. Analyzing massive datasets with intelligent algorithms helps in planning & predicting the demand of your product/s and also optimize the delivery process
b. Visual Recognition for Quality Control – No one buys damaged products. Therefore, most supply chain professionals check manually if there is any damage to the products during transit. This is where AI computer vision technology comes in handy. It helps in the inspection of the product, detects defects, and sends reports on the quality of products
Internet-of-Things (IoT) – The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet. So, when the data is transferred between 2 devices over a network via sensors, software, or other technologies, without requiring human interaction it is called IoT.
Some ways in which IoT is revolutionizing supply chains are:
a. Locate & Track Goods – One way that IoT improves supply chain management is through real-time tracking. With IoT devices, businesses can know the exact location of their goods and suggest alternative routes to speed up the supply chain
b. Check Quality of Products – IoT enables businesses to validate and ensure the quality of the goods being produced and transported, proactively. There are many stages in the manufacturing process wherein IoT sensors are used to check quality standards. The device rejects any product that is damaged or flawed thus helping in taking corrective measures in time and avoid misalignment of products
c. Monitor Storage Conditions: There are special IoT devices that can check environmental factors such as humidity, wind exposure, light intensity, temperature, etc. for the products being transported. E.g. there are certain temperature-sensitive products, that have to kept at a specific temperature range throughout the supply chain to prevent them from any damage
Read the full article here: How IoT is Transforming Supply Chain Management
- Robotics – Robotics is a branch of engineering that involves the conception, design, manufacture, and operation of robots. This field overlaps with electronics, computer science, artificial intelligence, mechatronics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering. Robots are playing an essential role in supply chains right from the extraction of raw materials. Businesses combine physical robots with AI to maximize the mountain of new data created by automated technologies. About 32% of supply chain professionals say they are actively using robotics and automation, according to 2019’s MHI Annual Industry Report.
For instance, Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) are now being used in many warehouses, helping laborers to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently. They can move through the environment quickly without being overseen directly by an operator. The main advantage of AMRs is that they help workers in being more productive because of constant collaboration. Also, warehouse robots can have sensors to check product quality that can provide actionable insights to supply chain managers
Big Data – Wikipedia defines Big Data as a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. It is making an impact across all supply chain activities. Here’s how Big Data is helping improve supply chains:
a. Demand Forecasting – Supply chain companies have to keep track of warehousing stocks, control demand & supply, and deliver goods on time. Big Data helps to predict demand with all the information available and take action. For instance, Domino’s Pizza has been collecting data for years. And now it uses the information to forecast demand. They know what pizzas will be ordered and therefore, they start preparing the order beforehand. If there is no demand, they change content on the site and offer discounts
b. Warehouse Management – Logistics activities depend a lot on warehouse management. Delays in picking & packaging the materials and sending the delivery late could cause huge losses. Analytics provided by Big Data can help workers in better organization and management of pallets with goods so that they are ready to load once the vehicle arrives
c. Supply Chains Visibility – Big Data enables companies to gain knowledge from huge volumes of data from multiple sources by implementing the right technology. Various technology solutions provide opportunities to increase visibility at every stage of the supply chain with the information provided via Big Data
Blockchain – A blockchain is a growing list of records called blocks which are interconnected by utilizing cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a time stamp, and exchange information. Utilizing blockchain we can safely store information over the shared system, where everybody can see but can’t do any alteration. Blockchain will track all information trade called ledger and it uses a distributed system to verify every exchange. Supply chain data is not always visible, available, or trusted. Blockchain helps supply chain members share trusted data through permissioned blockchain solutions. It helps shape the supply chain in the following ways:
a. Increase Transparency – Through distributed ledger technology that provides a shared, single version of the truth, Blockchain supply chain solutions give their members greater visibility across all supply chain activities
b. Building Resilient Supply Chains – One unexpected event can disrupt the supply chain. Blockchain power smart contracts that automatically trigger when pre-defined business conditions are met. This helps businesses in getting real-time visibility into operations and take an action earlier if required
c. Streamline Supplier Onboarding – Find a new supplier and its onboarding is a time-consuming process for both buyers and sellers in a supply chain. Blockchain helps in speeding up this process by an immutable record of vendor details that all can trust
- 6. Cloud Computing – It is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Some businesses have been taking advantage of cloud computing in various supply chain activities such as storing massive data, forecasting demand and supply, procurement, and logistics.
The right supply chain technology enables your business to create greater visibility within your supply chain, gain more control over your inventory and outpace the competition. To stay ahead of your competition, it’s essential you continually adopt emerging technologies.