In our Expert Insights Series, we ask thought leaders across supply chain to weigh in on key topics and questions. First up: we talk about technology.
Supply chains are the lifeblood of the modern businesses. Constantly strained by changing consumer demands, evolving business models, supply disruptions, demand volatility, and unforeseen challenges, these increasingly complex networks require technology to make sense of them through increased visibility and agility. As efforts for increasing the effectiveness of supply chain management develop, digital transformation is no longer a nice to have capability. It’s a must have.
Supply chain technology has evolved quickly in the last few years, opening up new possibilities in communication, data analytics and transparency. Businesses seeking to enhance critical supply chain planning capabilities are adopting advanced digital enablers, such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Digital twins, to increase efficiency and performance across functions of the supply chain management process.
Beyond the hype and buzzwords, how will technology change the future of supply chains? We asked industry experts to share their views on the role of technology and how they envision the impact on the supply chain landscape. Here are their thoughts:
Larry Lapide, Research Affiliate at MIT. Columnist in Supply Chain Management Review and The Journal of Business Forecasting.
“I believe that technology primarily enables rather than shapes future global supply chains.
When I was a technology analyst, I always took the position that changes in business processes are responsible for operational and supply chain improvements. If the process stays the same after a technology is installed, often that means a company is doing the same things faster. Thus, offering no improvement and possibly worsening things. The technology allows (i.e., enables) it to make the requisite changes, however, these might also require that people, organizational structure, and other integrated processes must change as well. That is too often overlooked during technology implementations.”
“Technology has, from its earliest applications in inventory management in the 1950s, been an essential enabler in two key ways: first, it extends our capacity for work – through the automation of repeatable tasks in particular; and second, it expands our capacity for understanding. Humans have a limited capability to process large and complex sets of data, and we often fail to see patterns in it. Technology allows us to rapidly gain insight from our supply chain data and make more effective decisions. At its root, this hasn’t changed, but where technology is really advancing is in its response to the deeper understanding we have for the way humans think and work. We are at a place now where effective technologies mean businesses don’t have to change processes to accommodate the tech, the tech is there to make the established processes even more effective.”
Maria Villablanca, Co-Founder and CEO of Future Insights Network
“Technology is going to be one of the single biggest assets Supply Chain leaders will have in building resilience. Implementing technological advances that helps their teams and their customers gain value is imperative. The digital supply chain is here and those companies without the advantage of digital will suffer enormously.”
Patrick Bower, Sr Director Supply Chain at Aceto
“My early career was as a software developer - rising to the level of CIO and VP of R&D for a software company before going supply chain functional. I only offer this to say simply - that I know what I am looking at... I still see too many hype cycles and not enough use cases. I laugh when software providers say their tools could have helped with COVID and I see Gartner four quadrant analyses that do not make sense to me based on my assessment of supply chain software.... on the flip side, I see developments in supply chain and freight visibility, and I depended on top line insights from predictive analytics tools during COVID. The emphasis on post COVID, supply chain tooling is likely to bring more competition into the space, reminiscent of the mid to late 90's. I am cautiously optimistic that we are emerging from the 'dark ages' of supply chain software functionality.”
Alex Pradhan, Product Strategy Leader, John Galt Solutions
“As supply chains become more interconnected, global and complex, a big gap for most companies is not having true connected end-to-end supply chain enabling visibility and decision intelligence across the network. As technologies continue to quickly evolve coupled with the growing amount of data exchange and sharing, we will see a stronger fusion between the physical and the digital supply chain – ultimately enabling a more dynamic and automated supply chain.”
Dr. Muddassir Ahmed, Founder & CEO of SCMDOJO
“Technology will drive either internal efficiency or improvement in customer experience, ideally both!”
Charles Brennan, Research Analyst at Nucleus Research
“Technological advances in real-time insights and up-to date intelligence have allowed managers to obtain greater efficiency and transparency across all nodes. Increased transparency allows for a tighter communication and collaboration within the supply chain community which ultimately makes operations easier. Internet of Things can help reduce lost shipments, defective products, and misplaced inventory as it monitors assets throughout the logistics journey. Implementing AI/ML can automate warehouse operations, improve delivery times, proactively manage inventory, optimize strategic sourcing relationships, and create new customer experiences that increase satisfaction and boost sales. 3D printing allows companies to decentralize production and make product parts in local assembly hubs, where there is demand.
The decentralization allows companies to cut back on logistics costs, reduce their carbon footprint, bypass geopolitical risks associated with offshore outsourcing. This will get products to consumers faster creating competitive upside in today's instant-gratification society. Integrating IoT technology, AI/ML, and 3D printing will become the gold standard for organizations to create intelligent and efficient business process.”
Stay tuned for more in our Expert Insights Series! As we share views and opinions from thought leaders and industry peers on key topics of the ever-evolving supply chain landscape.