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 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.
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 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?