The process of supply chain is slowly shifting from assembly lines to robotic solutions. It is the smart, tech-driven management and advanced technology that is slowly becoming the focus of industries involved in supply chain and logistics for increased efficiency and decreased operating costs.
Supply chain trends
Let’s look at some of the key trends that are helping or are expected to help supply chain practices of the future:
#1 Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is set to revolutionize the supply chain process and its importance lies in its ability to reinvent business models and ecosystems. It has the potential to enhance and even automate decision-making, thereby making other emerging technology trends redundant. Although AI currently lacks the capability of decision-making, it can still predict future scenarios through pattern analysis. It is increasingly finding use in warehousing segment in the procurement process, especially in gesture recognition solutions.
#2 Advanced analytics
With this, companies will proactively seize future opportunities and reduce adverse incidents. Using prescriptive analytics, companies can improve decision-making in supply chain planning and logistics. The prescriptive and predictive analytics will obviate reliance on human judgment.
#3 Circular supply chain
The conventional concept of linear supply chain, where goods flow linearly from raw material stage to finished product stage is being replaced by circular supply chain concept. This involves reuse of products and materials, called reverse logistics, and entails using previously used products as raw materials. The result is conservation of resources, value addition, reduced administrative and transportation costs, higher sustainability and better customer service.
#4 Conversational systems
Conversational systems, that include virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and chatbots, are easing interaction without human involvement. These systems are designed to provide customer service, manage transactions, handle payments and ensure delivery.
#5 Internet of Things (IoT)
Select supply chain domains are warming up to IoT, but are still far away from implementing it in end-to-end supply chain process. However, it is being extensively used in the air and defense industry for leveraging data in the extended supply chain. Its other uses are in demand management and services, preventive maintenance, sourcing, logistics and manufacturing.
#6 Robots and autonomous vehicles
Robots and autonomous vehicles are proving indispensable in controlled environments, such as warehouses. These intelligent entities are set to impact asset-centric, product-centric and service-centric industries. Robotic process automation will not only help in automating manual tasks or processes, but also in cutting costs, eliminating keying errors and speeding up processes. Taking over human tasks will leave manpower free for value-adding activities to benefit the company.
#7 Immersive technologies
Immersive technologies are still some years away from being implemented in supply chain business. However, technologies, such asvirtual reality and augmented reality are already in use in a variety of industries, such as enhanced repair and maintenance capabilities in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing.
#8 Customer segmentation
One of the growing trends in industries is to segment customers into groups based on their specific purchasing decisions. This direct-to-consumer business model attempts to adapt its supply chain strategy to each customer and product. This not only meets the customers’ needs, but also helps in adjusting to changing market circumstances.
#9 Supply chain digitization
Digitization helps in redesigning the supply chain and logistics practices to meet the fast-paced, omni-channel and highly competitive business environment. This is because digitization improves the dynamics, speed and resiliency of the supply chain operations, resulting in greater customer responsiveness and higher revenue.
#10 Strengthening practices and relationships
One of the most important aspects of the supply chain process are efficient procurement practices and strong relationships with suppliers. An emerging trend is to utilize the business data on suppliers to enhance supply chain decisions. Effective cooperation with them helps in assessing problems faced by supply chains, such as risks of stock shortages. Collaboration helps in streamlining internal processes and in reducing overutilization of resources.
#11 Wearable devices
Designed to help the employee access and input data in real time, wearable devices are making inroads into industries. For example, a warehouse manager can speedily and accurately collect inventory data and at the same time stay up-to-date with product demand. This device can also monitor vital health signs of workers.
There is no doubt that the latest trends for supply chains are proving a competitive advantage for industries. All of these advancements will become a part of logistics management software in the near future. The slow, but sure, evolution of these trends are set to revolutionize the supply chain processes.