How Technologies Are Converging To Enable Intelligent And Resilient Supply Chains

Many organizations are focused on applying intelligent technologies like automation, machine learning, and AI to streamline processes, automate routine tasks, and assist in the effectiveness of Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, and drones”.
That was one of the key learnings from a recent Oxford Economics survey of 1,000 supply chain executives.

Supply Chains

47% of supply chain leaders (the top 12% of the respondents) ranked “using automation to perform routine tasks” as their top strategic goal across the supply chain. This shows the value of harnessing the power of intelligent technologies to increase efficiency in day-to-day operations. What’s more, the survey also shows that leaders are integrating AI and machine learning to support their real-time data insights and reach their strategic customer-centricity and sustainability goals, and increasing their resiliency.

Leading the way with technology

Leaders are also way ahead of their competition when it comes leveraging technologies:

  • 76% are deploying IoT in some areas vs. 20% of other respondents
  • 64% are leveraging Big Data or predictive analytics vs. 15% of other respondents
  • 48% are deploying Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vs. 14% of other respondents.

From business case to business benefits

It is easy to be enamored of a technology and go in search of a problem to solve. But as Ana Lopez, VP of Manufacturing for Unilever in North America pointed out in the study, “You have to fall in love with the problem you have, not with the technology.”

And the survey shows that, using this approach, supply chain leaders are seeing the benefits:

  • 88% of Leaders using RPA say it helps deliver a customer-centric experience
  • 86% say their use of Big Data has increased visibility and flexibility
  • 86% say 3D printing helps meet sustainability goals

Supply Chain Leaders are not just using the latest buzz-worthy technologies. They are gaining insights and acting on them to create a more customer-centric, sustainable organization. They identify the problem and then look for the solution:

  • How can I offer my product as a service? If I design smarter (IOT enabled) products, I can track the performance and usage. I can then drive predictive maintenance processes and bill based on usage. 
  • How can I promote my produce as sustainable and ethically sourced? If I leverage blockchain to track the movement of goods across the supply chain, I can share this information with the customer who can track back to the supplier.
  • How can I ensure on-time delivery and better customer service levels? If I use IoT sensors and GPS technology across my transportation and logistics processes I can gain real-time visibility into shipments and inventory.
  • How can I improve demand visibility? If I sense demand for products through social media and sentiment analysis, or even weather forecasts and local events, I can get the right products to the right place at the right quantity and at the right time
  • How can I move from reactive to predictive maintenance? If I track the performance of assets using IoT sensors, I can predict failures, reduce maintenance costs, increase up time, and optimize usage
  • How can I improve employee performance? If I use augmented reality tools that assist technicians with the data they need to get the job done, I can increase technician productivity and improve customer satisfaction

The survey highlights that “data-driven organizations can react quickly to an unforeseen event or market change and have increased visibility up and down the supply chain. As intelligent technologies mature, they could soon go beyond predictive insights to suggest solutions to anticipated issues”.

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