Technological Changes Influencing Today’s Supply Chains

Supply Chains“Five technology trends are shaping a future where mobility, integration, complexity, and competition will be the defining characteristics of successful supply chain strategy”. So begins the thought-provoking lead article from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professional’s (CSCMP) Supply Chain Quarterly. This article remains as valid today as when it was published.

The Council’s research, supported by Penn State’s Small College of Business’s Center for Supply Chain Research, “identified 5 game-changing technologies and related emerging trends for supply chains”.

Proficient Sourcing is vitally interested in assisting with supply chain improvements, and we are thus particularly interested in coming change. This article forecasts quickly evolving change in the supply chain world and thus presents a view of things to come worthy of consideration. We would be most appreciative of your comments in our blog. There is a link to the full article below.

A very brief summary begins with the 5 technological trends:

  1. Mobile Communications. Obviously we have all experienced the explosion in mobile device capabilities. Not only virtually universal use by all business individuals, but also access to an almost limitless array of easily accessed applications. Most applicable of all this are bar-code scanning, digital imaging, realtime mapping and GPS.
  1. Deep Learning. Rooted in neural nets, deep learning now encompasses speech, text, image and pattern recognition applications. Virtual personal assistants (Siri for Apple; and others), Microsoft’s Speech Recognition, Facial recognitions, and Pattern recognition used by Amazon and Netflix for personalized recommendations are all examples of how deep learning has penetrated our lives. “In a supply chain environment, deep learning applications emphasize autonomous learning that has become a smart computing aspect of data analytics and software applications, especially in the areas of big data mining and…and demand forecasting and risk management”.
  1. Cloud Computing. It is certain that virtually all of us have taken advantage of the trend to replace traditional “purchase and install” software with cloud based systems. Not only have most areas become cloud-based, but this gives the small company relatively easy access to powerful CRM’s, workflow management tools and electronic data interchanges.

Specific supply chain adaptation rates are particularly strong in collaborative sourcing and procurement, transportation management systems and global trade management markets.

  1. Intelligent Robotics.   Only recently a new generation of more sophisticated artificially intelligent robots has emerged—and at reduced cost. In particular, warehousing and manufacturing are special cases with profound future implications for changing supply chain operations.

In manufacturing it is increasingly common to see intelligent robots for small-batch assembly in many small and medium size organizations. This contributes to reduced inventory requirements and more customized production.

Similarly, warehousing has seen astonishing changes, most notably in rapid fulfillment of e-commerce requirements.

  1. Manufacturing Digitization. Recent innovations is 3-D printing/additive manufacturing have focused attention on the astonishing potential now becoming available. The concept of digital manufacturing has been around for some time. http://www.totalcontact.com/index.html is an example of groundbreaking use of 3D printing of burn masks which has been in business for over a decade.

Now we have multiple technologies available for metals, in addition to plastics. From custom medical devices to complex prototypes these technologies (including 3DP-binder jet, direct metal laser sintering, fused deposition modeling, and Polyjet) offer the potential for vast increases in customization of products as well as better solutions to situations like low demand, long leadtime parts.

The article concludes with this: “5 game-changing technology trends will transform supply chains. These trends are creating a global supply chain of the future that will operate in an economic arena of highly mobilized production and consumption, and will allow small but global players to be more competitive. Success in this new, more complex landscape will require an emphasis on unified, cross-channel services and on the leveraging of data-driven insights through investment in analytic tools and knowledgeable people as the foundation for integration and competitive advantages”.

To see the complete article, go here.


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