Growing global complexity in supply chain management has forced organizations to look towards technology as their silver bullet; serving as the missing link between people (supply chain actors) and the ability to collaborate at scale. As such we have Blockchain technology reshaping SCM.
Blockchain technology is one of the most hyped amongst the currently developing technologies, hypothesized to make one of the greatest impacts in supply chain management — especially procurement and logistics — in the coming years. If SCM tech were a summer reading list, Blockchain would be the Twilight trilogy.
From The Terminator to Blade Runner, pop culture has always leaned towards a chilling depiction of artificial intelligence (AI) and our future with AI at the helm. Recent headlines about Facebook panicking because their AI bots developed a language of their own have us hitting the alarm button once again. Should we really feel unsettled with an AI future?
News flash: that future is here. If you ask Siri, the helpful assistant who magically lives inside your phone, to read text messages and emails to you, find the nearest pizza place or call your mother for you, then you’ve made AI a part of your everyday life.
How many screens do you have? And is your screen time?
You likely have a Cell phone or a Smart phone. You may have a Desktop computer monitor or a Laptop, or both, between your home and your place of work. You may have a wearable device like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. You may have an iPad or other type of tablet. And your TV may even have Internet connectivity.
We are surrounded by screens and the amount of time that we spend on them is truly remarkable.
But for those who are learning about Supply Chain, or any other profession for that matter, is it best to acquire that learning and gain that experience just by watching screens? Or is it better in Supply Chain to learn based on actual physical experiences and interactions?
One could argue Supply Chain transparency — at it’s origin — is a byproduct of consumer concerns, materialized within poor production, social and/or environmental quality.
As the story goes, the meatpacking districts of Chicago were one of the first recorded drivers, towards the need, for supply chain transparency. The Jungle, authored by Upton Sinclair, outraged the American public in 1904, after Sinclair’s depiction of the harsh realities of the meat industry at the turn of the 20th century. The book sparked consumer concern, which prompted the Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act (Linich 2016).
The Industry 4.0 Ecosystem involves leveraging the latest technologies, digital capabilities, the unprecedented dissemination of IoT (the Internet of Things) and the incredible ability to tap into data anywhere and everywhere in the Supply Chain.
The level of digital connectivity across the entire End-to-End Supply Chain, from customers through to manufacturers, distributors, logistics companies, and suppliers of all kinds enables this forward leap to an Industry 4.0 world.
The Internet of Things (IoT) enables the end to end connectivity of all aspects of our lives in an unprecedented manner. What happens when IoT and Manufacturing come together?
In the arena of Manufacturing there has always been a reliance on processes, data, sensors, controls, analysis and metrics to allow for monitoring, management and optimization of those Manufacturing processes. And the ability to leverage historic approaches has varied from company to company and industry to industry.
But now with the advent of IoT, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0 the ability to optimize Manufacturing processes through this incredible digital connectivity is about to take a quantum leap forward.
The Internet of Things — IoT, for short — is made up of devices that connect to the internet and share data with each other. IoT devices include computers, laptops, smartphones, and objects that have been equipped with chips to gather and communicate data over a network.
IoT devices have become a part of the mainstream electronics culture that people have adopted into. It is estimated that there will be up to 21 billion IoT devices by 2020, impacting how we interact with basic everyday objects.
There are several things to note about the IoT as it becomes more mainstream, as a key element of the Digital Supply Chain.
Analysts predict that by 2020, 75% of new cars will feature IoT connectivity. The percentage increase describes consumer applications, but the idea of connected vehicles should garner interest from other sectors such as shipping, logistics, and transportation management.
Leaders in these industries would be wise to plan for a future where AI and the IoT transform transportation management.
I remember manually plugging 16kB (that’s right “kilobyte”) memory chips into an original IBM Personal Computer. The crunching sound they made was unforgettable. I was ecstatic that I had increased the total memory to 128kB, and then to 256kB … WOW! At that time that was a lot of memory. Who could ever need to store that much data? That was “Big Data“.
Let’s fast forward to today. The memory on your handheld smartphone and other devices is measured in Gigabytes (GB). Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of information are generated every day. Every move, every transaction, every image, every event and every location in everyone’s lives are recorded.
Technology and creations go hand-in-hand. The former is fundamental in building anything that can impact development, lifestyle, and economy. Take for instance, the 3D printing technology and how it rewrites the Guiness Book of World Records.
Though it was introduced three decades ago, it is recently that its impact is felt in industrial and manufacturing sectors. It has paved ways for testing and trying many things that has changed the traditional manufacturing methods.
All that invention and creativity that went into it, have enabled in developing many “worlds first.”
Why half? For those who may find awkward the reference to “half a decade” and not the “next decade” here is why: AI is evolving at such a staggering rate that it is simply not possible to foresee the impact of Artificial Intelligence in 10 years’ time.
Everywhere you turn there is talk of a lot of very exciting technologies requiring Supply Chain investment. The Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Drones and Autonomous Vehicles, Robotics, Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intelligent Analytics are front and centre.
And all of these technologies have applicability for the Supply Chain in every business and in every industry around the world. The Digital Supply Chain vision is within our line of sight.
But most companies are still working with the same, manual, non-automated Supply Chains that they have had for at least the last decade. And they will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. They are faced with challenges which are going to impede technology investments to advance their Supply Chains going forward.
Supply Chain 4.0 is the manifestation of the Digital Supply Chain of the future as enabled by many of the Disruptive Technologies that we all hear about every day. Here we review our Digital Supply Chain infographic.
Everyone is impacted by the advancement of technology in both their personal and professional lives. And that impact will only become more profound as time goes on.
The Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Cloud Computing, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, Advanced Analytics and more are terms represent the technological breakthroughs that are being made every day.
For those involved in Supply Chain there are deep impacts that are occurring, and that will continue enabled by the evolutionary and revolutionary change that is enabled by technology. Let’s look at the Digital Supply Chain infographic.
When I started in the distribution space, I was told “…business is simple…cases in, cases out.” Reports were on green bar paper and forklifts were everywhere. As the distribution space evolved, the reports became spreadsheets and forklifts remained very important as they are coupled with the latest and greatest automation.
Supply chain improvements over the last 15 years have been incremental at best. The advances we are making in the supply chain powered by Augmented Reality (AR) are going to be wildly disruptive. The supply chain community that leans into AR and gets it right will come out the clear winners for every perspective: simplicity, safety, quality and productivity.