Going Green - Sustainability in Supply Chains

More than ever, companies are realizing the importance of making sustainability a priority in their supply chains—this is how they’re making that transition. 

Sustainability is quickly becoming a necessity rather than a choice. This isn’t only for regulatory reasons, though avoiding fines and penalties certainly is important to companies. Rather, companies are recognizing that making their supply chains environmentally friendly also has positive results on their reputation and customer satisfaction.

As such, it’s more critical than ever for companies to have a game plan when making their transition towards sustainability. With that said, this game plan needs to be multifaceted and comprehensive but still realistic. Going green doesn’t have to be the monumental task it seems if such a strategy can be enacted.

This ebook goes over the main steps companies are taking to make their supply chains greener and the key considerations that coincide with those measures.

What are Companies doing to ensure that Sustainability is Central to their Supply Chains?

morai_ebook-sustainability-supply-chain-cover-page

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Omnichannel Supply Chains - What are They and What do They Look Like?

Omnichannel supply chains are the future, yet there remains some confusion surrounding them—just what are they and what characteristics do they display?

The more customer expectations get detailed, varied, and complex, the more companies have to adapt. Omnichannel supply chains are such an adaptation. In the domain of retail, a transition is taking place from exclusively brick-and-mortar stores to both brick-and-mortar and online stores. As such, single channel supply chains are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With that said, what is an omnichannel supply chain exactly and how does it differ from one that is multichannel? Moreover, in practice, what does it look like?

This article by Morai Logistics covers just what an omnichannel supply chain is as well as the most prominent features it displays.

What is a Omnichannel Supply Chain?

Simply put, an omnichannel supply chain is a single supply chain where consumers have more than one option to fulfill their orders. For example, in the case of a pizza shop, they might want to provide two avenues for their customers to purchase their pizzas, online and in person. In turn, their supply chain would have two different considerations for fulfilling orders.

In many ways omnichannel is similar to a multi channel supply chain. However, there’s a key way in which it’s different and thus stands out. An article from River Logic explains:

Although the terms multichannel and omni channel are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences. Multichannel refers to multiple supply chains used to satisfy each type of shopping experience. Each channel is separate. The online catalog is different from items stocked in physical stores, and pricing may differ. Each store has its own stock, often jealously guarded, and the organization’s online store is a separate entity from retail stores. Omni channel supply chains are completely different in that there’s only one supply chain.

So, with the broad strokes of what an omnichannel supply chain is covered, what are some of the most common components that make it up?

Integrated

No dimension of an omnichannel supply chain is more important than operational integration. All its processes need to managed on a single software platform. With the added complexity that comes with having numerous channels, those channels then need to be kept track of. A unified platform that tracks all the data and fulfillment avenues is critical as a result. By extension, digitization is also a must.

No Silos

As a consequence of the necessary integration, ominchannel channel supply chains also tend not have silos. These could be operational silos, data silos, or business silos. The main thing is, just like a modern day supply chain should have visibility throughout its chain, so should an omnichannel. Perhaps more so, due the various channels it has to contend with. With a greater possibility of complication should come a greater need for simple and straightforward oversight.

Flexible & Efficient

Due to the nature of an omnichannel supply chain, it needs to have inventory on the ready, particularly in the case of online orders, at locations nearest to the customer. That means running a supply that is precise with its analytics and forecasting so it can be flexible in meeting the demands placed upon it.

As highlighted in the preciously mentioned River Logic article:

In both instances [retail stores and online], carrying excess stock is costly and inefficient. What’s needed is supply chain agility together with analytics that help determine future demand with some degree of accuracy and an ability to balance conflicting demands while managing distribution costs.

Customer Experience - 4 Ways Supply Chains can Improve .png

Customer experience is on its way to becoming the most important factor in supply chain success—here are 4 ways to improve it. 

Making supply chains as customer-centric as possible is set to become priority number 1 for companies. It’s what makes companies stand out. In turn, it’s what makes customers want to do repeat business with them. As such, companies are focusing on ways to use their supply chains to enhance customer experience.

As covered in a recent Supply Chain Movement article,

Customer experience will soon be the most important factor for a successful supply chain – even more important than low costs, according to six out of ten supply chain professionals. They ranked it as the number one brand differentiator in the coming years, putting it ahead of price and product in a recent global survey.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights 4 of the most critical ways in which companies can improve their customer experience via their supply chains.

Listen to and Study Your Customers

These are certainly obvious considerations. Nonetheless, they’re worth addressing. Customers want and often expect a personalized experience. If companies can provide it to them, they often gain longtime loyal consumers. Fortunately, there’s a fairly straightforward two-pronged approach to meeting this customer requirement.

The first thing companies can do is simply listen to their customers as well as specifically ask for feedback through whatever channels they have available. Secondly, once they have sufficient data on their customers, companies should create multiple buyer personas. These personas should include exactly what these potential buyers would want on their customer journey. This process should be dynamic, adapting to new customers and new expectations.

Eliminate Data Silos

The various teams, processes, and operations within a supply chain should have data flowing freely between them. More than that, all their data being collected should be consolidated and kept in a single, unified platform. The easiest avenue to achieving this is digital transformation. But regardless of how companies do so, they need their all data to be easily accessible and easy to sort through.

As a result of this, companies can then keep up with the functioning of their supply chain on all levels. And, in turn, keep their customers informed as well. This is also helpful in the case of any issues that arise. After all, customers are much more understanding of companies that are proactive in mentioning and addressing their mistakes, as opposed to ones that wait for negative feedback to respond.

Enhance Visibility

If companies want to be able to avoid and fix for impediments within their supply chains, it’s crucial that they have visibility across them. If an order is late or having problems, it’s of the utmost importance that companies be aware of that. Otherwise, orders may never arrive. Thus, companies have to ensure they utilize integrated and transparent supply chain management.

Visibility isn’t only important for the company itself, however. A post by Bringg distinguishes between the two types of visibility needed,

Internally, businesses need to have full visibility over their own fleets, inventory, warehouse and drivers. On the customer end, consumers today want to have full visibility over their delivery – from when it leaves the warehouse, restaurant, or service center until it arrives to their house.

Embrace Data, Analytics, and Machine Learning

Data is a company’s primary resource to transform into top notch customer experience. This is because, through data collection, companies can gain insights into how their various operations are doing through analytics. Which, in turn, can be conveyed to customers or used to mitigate any supply chain breakdowns. Moreover, that gathered data can also be used for machine learning. A function of AI that helps with predicting demand and forecasting.

Supply Chain Technology 2019 - Year in Review Part 2

2019’s over, but there’s plenty of technology to look back on over the course of the year to see what affects it had on supply chains.

The move by companies towards digitization grew more pronounced in 2019. As such, many of the technologies that digital transformation supports grew as well. Part 1 of this review covered several of them, including AI, automation, and IoT.

Christian Titze from Gartner explains,

As companies seek to exploit the benefits of greater levels of digitalization, new and innovative technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models

Nonetheless, there’s plenty more to cover. Supply chains looked to a number of other technologies to elevate the running of their operations last year.

This article by Morai Logistics underscores many of the most significant developments in supply chain technology in 2019.

Blockchain

Blockchain didn’t have a breakout year in terms of adoption by supply chains by any means. Rather, it was a yer of tentative interest. Blockchain remains a technology in need of maturing. As such, the limitations that plague it like difficulty in supporting scalability remain a problem for it. In spite of that, its many benefits still have companies watching it closely.

A Gartner article expounds on why blockchain grew in prominence in 2019, despite its limitations,

In theory, organizations should know all parties in their supply chain network (within the broader business ecosystem) and trust them — but this is far from today’s reality. Blockchain technologies, as an example, could be an answer to address this problem across three areas — counterfeiting, visibility/traceability and efficiency play.

Robots and Cobots

Robotics only saw an incremental increase or similar rates of adoption in supply chains in 2019. As highlighted in this Supply Chain Dive article,

About 32% of supply chain professionals say they are actively using robotics and automation … This number has gone relatively unchanged since 2016 when 35% of respondents said they were actively using robotics and automation, but anecdotal evidence and market value forecasts show warehouse robotics growing.

With that said, even though robots saw little change, cobots gained some attention. A trend that continued from previous years, as seen in the sharp increase in cobot production numbers. This was probably due to the fact that cobots, by virtue of being robots that collaborate rather than replace human workers, aren’t as disruptive to workplaces. Moreover, not quite as much is expected of them as they aren’t necessarily doing tasks in isolation.

Immersive Technology

Certainly, virtual, augmented and mixed reality are immersive technologies that have been around for quite some time. However, it was in 2019 where companies began to explore their use in their business operations. That includes their supply chains, where they can have considerable benefit in a number of areas, including manufacturing and logistics. One reason for this is because they can help with predictive maintenance, displaying all the relevant data on AR glasses.

Digital Twin

Digital twins are online visualization of an actual system, such as a supply chain. Thus they have proven to be fantastic at creating end-to-end visibility of supply chains. Which in turn enables supply chain managers to have a clear understanding of how their chain is functioning and quickly respond to any issues it might be plaguing it.

All Things Supply Chain’s post further covers why using digital twins gained the traction it did over the past year,

The computer-aided duplicate of things has evolved in many ways: Today, digital twins are not only used for real-time product monitoring, but also for opening up new business areas. Scenario testing and analysis can be used to assess future potential success. In manufacturing, for example, a digital twin can answer all the crucial questions: How much do I produce or am I able to produce? How much capacity do I have? Are my plans still realistic?

The Cloud - Transforming Supply Chains Part 2

The cloud is redefining the way in which supply chains can operate to their tremendous benefit—here’s how. 

The cloud is a technology that at times goes overlooked. It doesn’t quite generate the same attention as some other tech buzzwords like blockchain or AI. Yet, the cloud is the facilitator of supply chain innovation. It is the mechanism through which digital transformation becomes a reality. Without it to pull the many disparate pieces of technology together, companies suffer from knowledge gaps due to data silos.

As such, it’s not an understatement to say that the cloud has transformed the way in which supply chains function. It has served as a kind of master key, liberating companies to have the totality of their data in one place. In turn, allowing all that data to be consolidated, interactive, and be transparently understood.

This ebook covers many of the key features that come with adopting the cloud and how those features bring numerous advantages.

In What ways is the Cloud Changing Supply Chains and What Advantages are They Gaining as a Result?

morai_ebook-cloud-transforming-part2-cover-page

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Supply Chain Technology 2019 - Year in Review Part 1

With 2019 almost at an end, and technology having been the focus of so much of it, it’s critical to look back at some of the supply chain technology that defined it.

More than ever before the supply chain has become characterized by technology. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, blockchain technology, and much more are all part of the technological advancements driving supply chains forward. 2019 saw all these innovations continue their ascent. And, while not all of these technologies have seen wide scale adoption just yet, it seems to be a matter of when rather than if.

An article by All Things Supply Chain further delves into this supply chain trend,

In the globalization era, the supply chain is more diverse than ever before. Every day new technical innovations offer the opportunity to reduce this complexity. Gartner vice president David Cearley describes this development as an “intelligent digital mesh” that “will be characterized by smart devices delivering increasingly insightful digital services everywhere”. These circumstances are transforming the supply chain from a technology-enabled procedure to a technology-centric one.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights some of the most prominent developments in supply chain technology in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Perhaps the most significant technology in the supply chain space, artificial intelligence had a big year in 2019. Being responsible for machine learning, several smart devices, and the driver of automation, AI is the linchpin to numerous critical innovations. What AI in 2019 showed is that it is entirely capable of taking on numerous human tasks and operations. Analyzing data, making models, predictions, and forecasting with it, route optimization, personalizing customer service are just a few things AI showed that it’s capable doing for companies over the previous year.

Analytics

If AI is the linchpin to a variety of technology, data is the life force for it. In turn, it’s through analytics that that life force can best be utilized and understood. Although analytics have been around for a while, they are growing more advanced. 2019 saw these advanced analytics grow a great deal more prominent.

A post by Gartner on the technology trends of 2019 explains,

Advanced analytics are increasingly being deployed in real time or near-real time in areas such as dynamic pricing, product quality testing and dynamic replenishment. The availability of supply chain data — such as Internet of Things (IoT) data, dynamic sales data and weather patterns — provides the ability to extrapolate the current environment to better understand future scenarios and make profitable recommendations.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The previously mentioned article by All Things Supply Chain addresses the impact IoT is set to have on supply chains,

 In the future, the number of networked devices will increase enormously, thus boosting efficiency and productivity in supply chain. Gartner estimates the number of networked devices will be 25 billion in 2021. In the future supply chain, for example, these could be smart sensors on manufacturing floors in order to efficiently manage planned and predictive maintenance work. These sensors could also be used to closely monitor and track stock and the entire inventory. Not only does this save a lot of manpower, but it also allows you to optimally plan your future production.

However, while 2019 didn’t quite reach those heights for IoT, it certainly further cemented its place in the supply chain. Adoption rates of IoT technology increased a great deal. As the year brought with it a greater focus on providing an end-to-end experience, companies began utilized IoT to help deliver that experience. And, as the above article displays, IoT adoption will only increase going forward.

Automation

Lastly, automation carried on expanding its presence in supply chain operations. Supply chains involve many tedious and repetitive tasks. Automation has allowed those tasks to be handled by machines like robots and drones. However, what 2019 showed is that automation doesn’t only mean a loss of human labour. It also means better human labour and supplemented human labour. Automation allowed workers to focus on more meaningful work in supply chains.. Not only that, but it also gave workers assistance with some of the more labour intensive tasks.

2020 Predictions - Supply Chain TechnologyAs 2020 fast approaches, it’s worthwhile looking ahead to where supply chains are set to go in the coming year, particularly with respect to the technology that bolsters them.

Companies successfully adopting the latest and greatest technology has really become central to supply chains performing well. As such, the past year has seen companies move towards digital transformation. This is because digitization is the main mechanism through which companies can integrate the technologies they need.

As a 2020 predictions report from IDC states,

Digital transformation is now the overriding priority for most manufacturers and retailers, with the adoption of digital technologies aimed to improving efficiency and effectiveness in the shorter term while providing the opportunity to either disrupt their market segment or be resilient to others that may try.

Having said that, most companies are now in some state of digital transformation. Thus, the question then becomes what technology will they look to to best optimize their supply chains? Rather than something wholly new, it’s likely that the next year will simply see supply chains embrace more of the same, just to different degrees.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights technological developments set to take place in the coming year.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Will Become Even More Prominent

With more and more data being gathered by supply chains, it’s becoming increasingly important to utilize that data precisely. This is where AI and machine learning algorithms will come into play. By having sufficient data, machine learning can distinguish the quality data from the junk. In turn, it can use that quality data for a number supply chain functions. Key among those functions being forecasting and planning. But they are just two amongst many.

A Finance Online post further explains the importance of AI and machine learning,

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also play an essential role in making supply chains more efficient. The technology can be used to automate procedures using algorithms based on data from previous processes. Automation makes supply chains more efficient by eliminating human errors. AI also can identify patterns in the supply chain, and companies can leverage this technology to predict purchasing demands and manage inventory. This takes the guesswork out of planning and procurement, eliminating the need for planners to do the same calculations over and over.

Blockchain Adoption and Belief Will Come Gradually

Blockchain technology has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. In the past year though, some of that attention has turned sour. A great deal of skepticism has arisen regarding a variety of its limitations. At the same time, the technology has finally made some strides.

TradeLens, in particular, has elevated itself into being the largest blockchain platform available for shippers. Nevertheless, it will take some time before blockchain is trusted and adopted en masse. Until then, as will be the case in 2020, the technology will experience slow and steady progress.

Robots Will Work With (Rather Than Replace) Human Workers

Robots are an emerging presence in supply chains. As a result of this, many workers in the space have grown concerned about the likelihood of robots replacing them. While some degree of displacement seems inevitable, much of the worry is overblown. 2020 will see humans working alongside robots in supply chains. And, in many ways, this will liberate human workers.

A recent Supply Chain Digital article expands on this,

Machine learning algorithms will handle boring, repetitive tasks like data hygiene and number crunching that planners with domain experience will use to make decisions. In our customer base, technology automation hasn’t replaced humans but elevated the roles of chronically overstrained planners, allowing them to focus on work that creates the most value.

5 Supply Chain Trends to Watch for in 2020

With 2019 coming to an end, it’s important to know what the new year will bring the world of supply chains—here are 5 supply chain predictions for 2020.

The year’s almost over. 2019 saw significant changes for supply chains all across the globe. Technological advancements continued coming in thick and fast. Additionally, several preexisting innovation picked up steam. Going forward, many of 2019’s develops are set to continue into 2020. On the other hand, several supply chain changes that come next year could be entirely novel. It’s impossible to know for sure, but there are certainly some indications one way or the other.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights 5 of the most prominent supply chain trends to be mindful of in 2020.

Going Green

More than ever companies will need to make their supply chains green. That means bringing down their carbon emissions and waste. Not only will this be critical for pleasing consumers but also in avoiding sanctions by governments. Furthermore, having a more sustainable supply chain means reducing inefficiencies, further reducing costs.

An Industry Week article further expounds on the value of a green supply chain,

Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse emissions after electricity generation, Lapide noted. He said companies need to develop energy efficient transportation operations, greatly enhance their reverse logistics capabilities, move toward green product design and take a holistic view of supply chain compliance as they become aware that their image in the marketplace depends not just on their own operations but their whole supply chain.

Focus on Integration

With technology becoming an ever-increasing factor for supply chains, integration is going to continue to be crucial going forward. In fact, even more so than before. As the number of supply chain innovations grow, it’ll become even more important to consolidate them. In turn, as data continues to be an increasingly valuable commodity for smart supply chains, integration will ensure it’s all collected and stored in the same space.

Blockchain’s Gradual Increase in Significance

Blockchain technology hasn’t quite arrived with the impact some predicted. Quite clearly it’s a promising technology, but it needs time. 2020 won’t necessarily be its breakout year, but it should be another year where it makes steady gains. There will be particular focus on TradeLens. It being the most comprehensive and highly adopted blockchain platform in the field of shipping and logistics. Ultimately, the demand for visibility and transparency in supply chains is only going to grow more pronounced. As such, blockchain isn’t going anywhere.

Automation and its Consequences

Automation is only going to become more prominent with each passing year. With that said, that move towards a less human supply chain might have costs in the short term that will become apparent over the course of the year. After all, digitization which is a prerequisite for automation, is extremely expensive and takes time to adjust to.

Trade Ready’s post explains why digitization can be detrimental to companies in the short term,

While many companies are moving to an increasingly digital workflow to reduce costs, in my opinion going digital is itself a big cost as investing in technology would be. While it will be beneficial at some point, investing in infrastructure and training humans will help to increase the productivity of supply chain and eliminate the additional cost of maintenance.

Smarter Warehouse Management with IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is integral to the earlier mentioned integration. When it comes down to smart warehouse management, having devices continually connected to the internet and giving constant feedback is vital. They allow warehouse managers to know the state of their inventory and track the performance of their operations.

TradeGecko emphasizes the importance IoT is set to have in integrating and boosting the productivity in warehouses,

That being the case, supply chain technology will likely become not only more integrated with other such tools, but will also become more specialized, as well. Supply chain teams that adopt this highly-integrated and specialized technology moving forward, then, will almost certainly spur a massive growth in productivity throughout their processes.

The Cloud - Transforming Supply Chains part 1

Supply chains are changing in a variety of ways due to technological advancements—here’s why the cloud is proving to be the most significant innovation of all.

Rapid advancements are taking place in the way supply chains operate, and companies need platforms to support them. These advancements are coming in the form of a variety of technological innovations. Namely, these innovations include artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, the internet of things, automation, smart sensors, and much more.

However, in turn, with all these new technologies and their corresponding platforms, there comes a need for all them to work together cohesively. This means all their data and processes being consolidated and being able to interact with each other. This is where the cloud comes in. It’s the technology that binds everything together.

This ebook covers just what cloud computing is, a couple of its most important features, and why those features are of such value to supply chains.

What is the Cloud, and What Makes it Such a Significant Technology for Supply Chains?

morai_ebook-cloud-transforming-part1

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

The 4 Greatest Hurdles Blockchain Technology Is Currently Facing

Blockchain technology continues to garner a lot of attention, but here are the 4 biggest obstacles it’s currently facing.

As supply chains continue to transform with the advent of a variety of technologies, their adoption of blockchain remains uncertain. Unlike technologies like artificial intelligence, automation, and IoT, blockchain has yet to prove itself as viable. It has displayed a great deal of promise and, in theory, could prove incredibly beneficial to a variety of industries, including supply chains. As of yet, however, there are a number of areas in which it needs to win over the masses.

CIO Dive elaborated on this earlier this year,

In its 2019 Hype Cycle for Blockchain Technologies, Gartner found most blockchain technologies remain stuck in an “experimentation mode.” The analyst firm said most applications are yet to live up to their hype, and that interest in them has waned as applications failed to deliver on their expected outcomes.

This article by Morai Logistics explains the four most significant barriers blockchain technology faces today.

Explaining it’s Value

Blockchain, in large part due to its complexity and nascency, is hard to explain. As a consequence of this, it can be incredibly difficult for decision-makers at companies to be convinced of its value. It can be reduced to a pithy line such as: blockchain is an immutable, transparent, and decentralized data base.

However, this hardly gets across the intricacies of the technology. Any elaboration on such a barebones explanation inevitably involves neologisms specific to the technology. This makes it even harder to understand than it already would be. Moreover, this is only made worse because even some that do understand the technology remain skeptical of its benefits. Thus, the burden for blockchain companies to prove the technology’s value remains incredibly high.

Lack of Maturity

In turn, just as blockchain suffers from its complexity, it also suffers from its recency. The technology has only been around for about a decade and only really taken off in the last few years. As a result of being such new technology, there are valid concerns over its maturity. Essentially, it’s yet to prove itself. It has been experimented with, yet there are very few instances of it being successful on a broad scale.

The previously CIO Dive article touched on this as well,

The immaturity of blockchain technology has been delaying its application in enterprise settings, as the majority of applications have either stalled at the experimentation space or will be in need of replacement in the near future.

Concerns About Reliability

Additionally, as blockchain technology isn’t proven, it’s hard to assuage fears about its reliability on some fronts. For example, how will it scale? So far, it’s proven not to be able to handle a large number of transactions, marking a considerable liability for large companies. Not only that, but there are additional concerns about how slow its transactions are due to the verification required of them.

Difficulty of Collaboration

Finally, in order for blockchain technology to work, it requires all actors involved to be on board. In the case of a supply chain, this means getting all the disparate parties involved to buy into the technology. Furthermore, this issue gets only more complicated as all parties also have to agree upon the best platform and development project for the technology. Without one outright blockchain leader in the field, this can be incredibly testing.

A recent Supply Chain Dive post explains the best way forward for blockchain collaboration,

Instead of having competing blockchain projects under development at different companies, success stories include the formation of standalone companies or consortiums in order to better articulate a strategy around a specific technology.