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.
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.
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.