The Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain!

Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain

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One of the terms that has entered the zeitgeist, holding the promise of providing some exciting new future state, is the “Metaverse”.

For some time we have also been describing a future that will define much of how businesses and economies and institutions will run in the future. We call this the “Digital Supply Chain”

What exactly is the Metaverse and how does it compare, contrast or align to our vision of the Digital Supply Chain? And what are some possible applications of these 2 intersecting technological paradigms?

What is the Metaverse?

The word Metaverse was first coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel, “Snow Crash”. It is described as a digital world, an “integrated network of 3D virtual worlds” operating separate and apart from our real world.

Forbes describes the Metaverse as “a combination of the virtual reality and mixed reality worlds accessed through a browser or headset, which allows people to have real time interactions and experiences across distance.”

Virtual reality technology is currently the portal through which people enter the Metaverse. You become immersed in this realistic, sensory driven world through the VR headset. Your avatar interacts virtually with other people through their avatars. Variations of this included augmented reality which combines both digital and real world environments.

Early attempts at immersing users into the virtual world involved the use of 3D glasses in movie theatres and subsequently on home TVs. The general idea was to bring you into that environment, which obviously had limited success. But perhaps this was a motivating force for frustrated techies to create a truly immersive virtual environment.

The Metaverse Applied

With initial application in VR multi-player video games, the potential for more pervasive applications is very interesting.

From an industry standpoint the potential for Metaverse application is broad, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, architecture, engineering, real estate, financial services, real estate, sales and marketing, finance, fashion, entertainment, travel, ecommerce and on and on and on.

From a type of application consider the possibilities for education, training, the design of anything, engineering, simulations, physical exercise, virtual work, personal and professional interaction, exploration and investigation, problem solving and decision making.

The creation of NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, involves the purchase, ownership, sale and trading of digital assets. All of this would be further enabled and expanded in a Metaverse environment.

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The possibilities seem limited only by the imagination and technological capabilities.

The Digital Supply Chain

We’ve written extensively about the Digital Supply Chain, as we believe that this is going to define much of our future for decades to come. The coming Supply Chain Renaissance has as its foundation the Digital Supply Chain.

The Digital Supply Chain involves the application of a large variety of technologies built on a backbone of real time electronic connectivity and visibility of every aspect of the entire end to end Supply Chain. Driven by this real time connectivity a Digital Supply Chain involves the intelligent real time operation of any and every aspect of the entire network.

Virtual Reality, Augment Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Blockchain, Autonomous Vehicles, Drones, Machine Learning, Control Towers, Cybersecurity and more all enable the real time management of Supply Chain.

While implementing the full complement of technologies will take time, most likely decades, the continued forward progress in implementation of capabilities will serve to move Supply Chain further and further into the digital world.

The Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain!

The Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain each have as their foundation the advancement of digital technologies. In fact, they are based on the same, overlapping technologies.

As such the Metaverse has direct applicability into shaping, designing and refining the Digital Supply Chain. Let’s imagine some of the applications that will be possible for Supply Chain.

1. Facility Simulations

Imagine using the Metaverse to create a virtual Manufacturing facility, a Warehouse operation, or a Distribution Centre. You could virtually walk around these facilities, see how they would operate, and optimize processes and flows all in a simulated world, also before sticking a single physical shovel in the real ground.

The operations can we tested immersively for peak loading periods, process breakdowns at any point, or supply disruptions all so as to determine where the problem spots are and to fix them virtually before making the investments physically.

2. End to End Supply Chain Network Mapping

Imagine walking in a virtual world in which you can see and visit every single supplier at every tier in your Supply Chain and watch the movement of goods through your entire network. Like a giant looking out over the world you would be able to see a virtual version of your end to end Supply Chain.

You can watch the flow of goods anywhere with problem spots highlighted. You can introduce “problems” like factory shutdowns, quality issues, weather related delivery delays, etc and see how your Supply Chain responds, or doesn’t. This can highlight problem areas in the Metaverse which can translate to making improvements to create a more robust Supply Chain in the real world.

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3. Disaster Recovery Optimization

Disasters, whether man-made or natural, occur all of time. While companies may have developed Disaster Recovery plans these plans are almost always on paper and only reflect the thoughts of those who authored them.

Now imagine that with your Supply Chain mapped in the Metaverse, you can introduce virtual disasters at any, or many, points. This virtual scenario creation will highlight where your Supply Chain breaks down. This will inform how you can create more resiliency and robustness in your real world Supply Chain design.

4. Peak Load Planning

Anyone who works in the ECommerce or Retail sector knows that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period represents a level of demand on your Supply Chain that can be 5-10 times greater than at any other time of the year. Yet this only lasts for a short time of the year.

The challenge is that you need to create a physical and resource capacity capability able to handle the peak period but be able to scale it back dramatically for the rest of the year. This is a difficult challenge.

Imagine being able to see how your Supply Chain, from order management to fulfillment to distribution and delivery, works under peak conditions but in a virtual world. You can ratchet up levels virtually until see where your Supply Chain breaks down. This will help you determine where to shore up the capabilities in your real world Supply Chain.

Conclusion

The future holds the promise of an exciting intersection between the Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain. We have outlined 4 possible future applications that will help shape and strengthen Supply Chains.

This “reality” aligns with our strategic vision of The Supply Chain Renaissance!

What do you imagine for future applications of the Metaverse and the Digital Supply Chain?

Originally published on July 12, 2022.

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