The Future of Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age, Part One

  

Reviewing-future-of-supply-chain-managementToday, we are literally surrounded by technology. Data permeates each of us, syncing our cars, our phones and our tablets. It even makes our TVs and refrigerators “smart.” Cellular traffic, ubiquitous to even the most remote locations, feeds our growing appetite for information. It even communicates on our behalf when geographical or linguistic limitations impede our ability to effectively articulate location or intent.

Digital Technologies Power Global Business

The world has gone digital, and although we don’t know what today’s technology will produce in the future, we do know one thing: Technology is changing our world at a pace never before seen. The disruptive nature of this change offers a great opportunity for those willing to acknowledge it, embrace it and take risks using it to carve out their own success.

In this two-part series, we’ll discuss the application of digital technologies within the supply chain management system of the future. This includes predictive analytics (PA), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) — technologies that are influencing supply chain management in new and potentially profound ways.

The Supply Chain Reaction

Supply chain management operates on the frontiers of technology and information management. Specialists in the field have long seen the need to understand their world through the objective lens of data and processes. As such, supply chain development organizations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS) and Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) have been around for decades to share best practices and educate the forces that matter most in a supply chain — people.

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In an interconnected world, the relevance of supply chain management increases geometrically, and the stakes continue to rise. Supply chain management practitioners help grow economies through improved systems that offer more functionality with increased efficiency, resulting in businesses with reduced operating costs, increased margins and expanded brand awareness. When effectively managed and operated, supply chains facilitate business profits, drive employment and generate economic wealth regionally, statewide and nationally.

For decades, emerging technologies have been the vanguard for smarter, cheaper, faster delivery methods in supply chain management. Smarter is a differentiator. With all other things equal, a more informed and insightful design at the same price shall prevail. Cheaper is an enabler and competitive advantage. And faster is the new black. Amazon, Uber, Netflix and others have already taught us that today’s consumers expect faster and more flexible methods of delivery, and enterprise supply chains are no different. Modern supply chains must offer the option of faster service or suffer the fate of big-box retail, traditional taxi services and Blockbuster. Differentiation, price and speed to market are always decision points in supply chain engagements, and so, as supply chain practitioners, our proposals, designs and implementations must be well represented by each.

A Sneak Peek of “Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age,” Part Two

Part two focuses on perhaps the most commonly discussed digital technology within supply chain management — automation and IoT. For operations managers, data scientists and CFOs, automation and IoT’s signature of efficiency, cost reduction and data capture generates great excitement. Each of these, on an individual basis, is powerful. But when combined, their rates of return are compounded on an enormous scale through operational improvements in efficiency, accuracy and cycle time. We’ll also discuss other factors that facilitate the need to invest in supply chain management.

The Future of Supply Chain Management Is Digital

Supply chain management’s legacy reflects an affinity for technology in reducing costs, improving productivity and increasing margins. Now more than ever, advances in technology allow present supply chain managers a way to achieve and accelerate returns faster, cheaper and smarter.

Learn more about the importance of supply chain management in making your business more efficient, more profitable and more successful.

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About the Author

Chris-Wright-Headshot-2019Chris Wright serves as the director of program and project management within Global Lifecycle Management, a specialized solutions business of Tech Data.