The Future is Now
What if I told you I could predict the future?
That’s right–dust off your crystal ball and break out the tarot cards, because it’s time to start making predictions about where we’re headed in the coming years. Instead of taking random stabs at lottery numbers or make vague horoscope-esque predictions for your personal future, however, we’re going to look at the future of supply chain management. And unlike your astrological sign or the psychic who opened up shop down the street, this writing will be scientific and grounded in reality and technology.
Most advancements happening throughout the world today are a result of new, burgeoning technologies elbowing their way into our everyday lives—things like…urine powered toilets, the clip-in Man Bun, and The Lily – a selfie drone that follows you around taking pictures of you being, well, you, -seriously – look it up for yourself! Some technologies, however, such as smart phones, and AI Robotics have made the supply chain process easier, faster and more efficient for businesses everywhere–and there’s no sign of the advancements slowing down any time soon.
Data Driven Decisions
When SCM World released the results of a Future of Supply Chain Management survey that asked those in the business what technologies would be most impactful in the future, “big data analytics” came in number one.
With advanced measurement metrics now becoming more and more available to businesses both small and large, the world is finding that making decisions based off of big data is becoming a reality. Both the techniques of collection and the analysis of pages upon pages upon pages of numbers and figures are improving as our technologies continue to advance. Because of this, more and more data is being collected for interpretation, including but certainly not limited to consumer location and network, pricing of competitors, projected and measured demands, transportation costs, and so on. With each of these pieces of data comes not only a list of numbers, but a list of where a business can improve. If the cost of transportation is too high relative to competitors or company projections, it provides a point to work towards–a goal for the company that, if achieved, will aid in lowering costs and helping the business succeed.
The Digital Supply Chain
If you’ll glance back up at the referenced chart a keen observer may notice that sitting directly below “big data analytics” is the digital supply chain; as 71% of those surveyed indicated that it would be a big player in the future of SCM.
The idea behind “going digital” has been around for quite a few years–you probably remember making the analog to digital switch on your televisions a few years back. However, like your Uncle Franco who refuses to simply buy a “new-fangled“ flatscreen, supply chains have noticeably lagged behind. However now as RFID, GPS systems and digital sensors have become more common; more supply chain management execs are taking notice and implementing a “hybrid” approach of sorts. A report published by Capgemini Consulting points to obvious benefits of switching to a holistically digital approach to SCM including flexibility, speed and a reduction in carbon footprint. Yeah Baby! Score those hard-to-get sustainability points with your CEO! Score one for the Ops Guy!
That’s right, AI – artificial intelligence isn’t just found in Politicians, it’s a real viable asset to the Supply Chain. In January of this year, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg posted to his platform indicating his personal goal for the year: building an artificial assistant. While we may not see any “I Robot” like androids taking our positions in the supply chain (and let me just insert this self-preservation disclaimer here …no robot could replace my Executive Assistant!) That said, just yet, the onset and continued development of artificial intelligence is a reality in the near future.
As our knowledge and ability to best utilize AI increases, it’s abundantly clear how it can be applied to the supply chain. The production–from design to manufacturing to shipping–can be expedited and perhaps made more precise by AI. As robotics advance, we could see AI machines design, draw and interact with all-digital models before passing them off for production.
Perhaps the most obvious iteration of AI in SCM is transportation. As autonomous motorized vehicles (right now mostly limited to cars) are very quickly becoming a reality, the transportation of goods via driverless trucks or drones may be nearer in the future than we think.
All said and done the future of SCM, is one that will involve innovation based in hard numbers and the bottom line. Save the psychic reader for your love life!