2018 & beyond: Bold predictions for securing supply chain’s future
February 6, 2018By Suhas Sreedhar
Each new year, our industry takes a shot at predicting what will change in the upcoming months. These predictions often focus on exciting new technologies and their potential to upend the status quo. This time, we thought we’d do something a little different.
Instead of glimpsing merely at 2018, we’re looking off to the horizon and asking ourselves, “how do we ensure that supply chains become modern and resilient in the years to come?”
From offering visions of advanced supply chain movements, to grounding our excitement in business realities, our four solution experts weigh in:
Dynamic environments demand innovative approaches, not just innovative tech
While state-of-the-art concepts continue to emerge at a dizzying pace, the supply chain technology market will consolidate further in the next few years. Why?
The market is beginning to look beyond the hype of innovations to consider the broader implications on supply chain processes. What combinations of connected technologies are needed to support such change? And are they architected to communicate in dynamic environments, or limited by static infrastructure?
Separating the wheat from the chaff means determining what can drive sustainable value. Is it IoT or blockchain? Cognitive learning or automation? Crowdsourcing or visualization?
These are among many useful tools that can that offer real potential. But old linear handoffs between planning and execution need to be replaced with iterative, demand-driven processes. Planning and execution will continue to converge.
Real-time insights provide opportunities for agile response, but can’t be viewed as a replacement for strategic planning. Keeping pace will require new types of platforms that can work across dynamic and heterogeneous environments. And decisions should be driven by commercial considerations and aligned metrics, not limited by conventional implementation considerations.
Companies that seek to tap the potential of emerging technologies need to consider how well their future state aligns with their processes and infrastructure, and what solutions can help bridge their transformation.
- Stacie Immesberger, Supply Chain Planning and Execution
The road to digital automation runs through visibility
In the future, “supply chain visibility” will take on a very different light. No longer will it be about “turning the lights on,” to see everything moving through the supply chain. You’ll essentially manage what you can’t see. Practitioners will only focus on exceptions, and the options for resolving them in the best way.
Companies will stop creating and updating models, and calculating and reviewing ETAs as goods move through the network. In fact, there will be very little human intervention at all.
The IoT will expand beyond vessels, planes, and trucks to include embedded sensors within products and packaging. Communication of live GPS data to machine learning algorithms will create and update models, simply telling you what is trending late, and what requires your attention. These predictions will be far more accurate than any human model. Why am I so confident that this will be the supply chain of the future?
Because it's happening today. Autonomous models benefit from decades of historical network data so they instantaneously comprehend seasonality, intuitive connections, and abstract dependencies only seen by machine intelligence. Continuous calculations predict the latest ETA, based on transactions and real-time network activity, which means these models only get smarter and smarter with every order and shipment around the globe.
Securing that autonomous supply chain future is happening now, as companies implement network-wide supply chain visibility and predictive, machine learning ETAs. And it’s important to not lose of how vital they’ll be.
- Mark Andrews, Supply Chain Visibility
Robots won’t cure all your transportation problems
Under the heading of “Bold Predictions for Supply Chains in 2018,” here’s a contrarian view: Self-driving trucks won’t help lower your company’s freight costs or increase available freight capacity for at least 20 to 30 years.
As robotics experts can tell you, the commercial aviation industry has automation in modern planes that would make the switch to pilot-less operation extremely viable right now, and more crucially—with very low risk, especially when compared to the challenges still ahead for autonomous truck operation. Is the airline industry clamoring for freedom to deploy autonomous planes? No.
An astonishing amount of business momentum is propelling autonomous driving toward some near-term market reality, but many serious impediments remain before fully driverless vehicles are both safe and practical on public roadways.
Driverless trucks are not a near-term solution for the shortage of new commercial drivers entering the workforce, willing to spend weeks at a time away from home, in low-status jobs tied to out-of-date wage models.
We strongly suggest that supply chain managers continue to pursue strategic technology investments to improve global transportation visibility end-to-end and optimize multi-modal strategies to contain total freight spending and mitigate capacity crunches, even as they budget for surface transportation cost increases over the next several years.
- Monica Truelsch, Transportation Management
Get ready to connect: Closing the digitization gap to get in the game
We all acknowledge that new technology will continue to revolutionize our business processes. It is exciting to look ahead, and dream about what our world will be like one day in the future. It is also all too easy to continue to wait for new technology to mature before we engage, however. There’s always the next new thing peeking out behind the corner before the last new thing reached full maturity.
As new technology continues to evolve and we witness proofs of concept turning into mainstream applications, it’s easy to get left behind. When looking ahead at things like supply chain digitization, big data analytics, IoT and blockchain, it’s easy to forget about incumbent manual and paper based processes still plaguing our operations.
Without procure-to-pay automation, many organizations will become unable to partake in many of these new digital supply chain transformation opportunities. This year, more organizations will initiate their digital transformation of procure-to-pay processes, evolving to the digital ecosystem.
- Peter Nilsson, Financial Supply Chain
Supply chain technology, global trade, and business practices are continually in flux these days. It’s a dynamic and exciting world. As we see it, though, the trick is to know where you want to go and catch the right winds to get there. It’s all too easy to get swept away by the tides.