Technology of 2018 shaping the global supply chain sector
PRESTIGIOUS US consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), has stated that the value of cross-border e-commerce will hit at least the US$250 billion mark by 2025, a significant rise from the US$80 billion figure reached in 2014.
Asia, it is envisaged, will take around 40 percent of that trade, with the US languishing behind Europe at 20 and 25 percent each, respectively.
The complexity of moving such an amount of physical goods is intimidating and can only really be handled practically by the use of the latest raft of technology – ironic, as it’s the latest tech which will allow retailers’ and wholesalers’ businesses to boom to the extent BCG predicts.
The tech industry is a-flutter with talk of blockchain and artificial intelligence, and these types of technology are just beginning to percolate down into supply chain management. For now, breaking technologies only appear on the peripheries where their particular advantages can be used.
Blockchain, for example, is seeing its first deployments in supply chains where trust and immutable traceability are foremost. Industries like pharma, for instance, are the among the first to take advantage.
Also grabbing mainstream headlines as well as piquing the interest of the supply-chain & tech press are drone and autonomous deliveries. Regulatory problems are preventing these disruptive technologies from becoming widespread – a global supply chain is too disparate to allow anything but small-scale, local experimentation at this stage.
What are these new kids on the tech block trying to achieve? The bottom line is customer satisfaction, as ever: improving the speed of deliveries, enhancing delivery happiness indices and adding to perfect order scores. Satisfied customers stay on-board with a service provider which can continuously provide excellent service, whether that’s (literally) delivered by drone or otherwise.
Elastic logistics’ acceptance by supply chain providers has pushed the perfect score index to around 84 percent of late, and while technology has made these relatively high levels possible, the same technologies are allowing customers to examine their options and switch between suppliers seamlessly. Tech gives with one hand, and takes away with the other!
There’s a bigger picture to customer satisfaction in the supply chain than just timely deliveries and good communications. Consumers & businesses focus on sustainability, and in any industry which involves travel, especially air shipping & heavy freight, efficiencies can lower truck rolls to the extent that providers can genuinely be ‘green.’ After all, among the top companies focussing on sustainability, as quoted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), are UPS and DHL.
Sustainability and efficiency improvements are more difficult to make with increased levels of commerce, and end-customer demand for omnichannel experiences further ratchet up the pressure on the sector. If a consumer knows he/she can order multiple items online and in-store, have them delivered to different locations, and returned to a further couple of places, then this type of expectation will spread upwards into the business environment. Wholesalers and B2B suppliers need to provide their own versions of this type of elasticity – artificial intelligence may give the answers on how to do so in time, but not just yet.
Global supply chains come with global issues: GDPR is making waves in data circles, of course, with any data held on a European person or organization subject to strict laws and the threat of hefty fines for malpractice. Conversely, China’s increasing deregulation seemed to be opening doors, only for them to be poised to close again with the US-Chinese trade war escalations.
In short, the future of the supply chain sector’s technology is as unpredictable as the future of trade itself. But what organizations operating in the industry need to be able to do is adapt and scale – and this is where technology (which is available now) comes into play. Choosing a suitable supplier of supply chain management solutions, therefore, is essential.
Here are three suppliers which we at Tech Wire Asia feel should be considered. They may not offer AI-powered drones delivering blockchain-authored contracts to customers, but their offerings are capable of producing the essential increases in customer satisfaction figures which prove that a good job is being done well. It’s all about driving efficiencies and increasing customer satisfaction, and these tech experts can lend a hand:
CTSI-Global reflects the transcontinental nature of today’s trade and supply chain networks, with offices in the US, Europe (Ireland), APAC (Singapore & India).
The company’s solutions allow its clients to exert better control over all aspects of the supply chain, which improves overall efficiencies across the global enterprise. Freight bill payments & audit help manage informational and financial systems, for example, but CTSI-Global’s expertize and experience mean it can provide consultancy and real business intelligence insights.
The company’s solution for supply chain management is cloud-based, and is highly modular. That means that any solution is always supplied bespoke to each client. CTSI-Global has been operating since the late 1950s, and has always approached its clients’ individual requirements in this way. The combination of this underlying credo and a cloud service makes for a unique and highly-valued offering.
Additionally, all the company’s software solutions are open to integrate with existing systems – ERP, CRM and specialist logistics solutions, for example, via a developers’ toolkit which includes an API. New clients can start to use just one or a handful of the available modules, and then add them piecemeal as necessary; there is no need to tear up existing processes and protocols and start again with existing software. CTSI-Global’s is a true end-to-end solution for the complete supply chian.
SaaS of course means the speed of implementation is quick, and typically can be completed in a matter of weeks. The advantages, for instance, of using the same system for both TMS and freight audit and payment, can become quickly apparent: lowered costs, improved efficiency and happier customers. You can read more about CTSI-Global’s offering in more detail here.
Anaplan runs 16 offices with over 150 expert partners right across the globe. Its cloud-based platform allows companies to connect planning and execution functions, plus it can provide business intelligence drawn together from disparate sources such as external or legacy systems.
Anaplan’s solutions (there are 39 supply chain apps alone) integrate with the specialist systems potentially already in place which are necessary for every step of the supply chain: CRM, financial packages, HR and all-encompassing ERP systems.
Relevant data can be presented via privilege strata to suppliers, partners, customers and staff, ensuring all parties are proactively kept up to date. The real-time integrations with all existing systems ensure that there is no need for batch processing of data from disparate silos, and “what-if” models can be deployed graphically at high speed.
As data flows in, Anaplan’s software can respond according to pre-set rules (bespoke or drawn from a series of supplied templates) if, as is wont to happen, variations from the norm become apparent.
The immediacy of information granted to the Anaplan user is a leading route away from partitioned, linear systems with which many organizations struggle.
JDA’s offering crosses a range of solutions from manufacturing and distribution, retail, to service industries. In manufacturing & distribution, its solutions stretch as far as the shop floor, offering floor planning and planogram generation. Additionally, the solution offers warehouse management, fed by logistics, all united by enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions and what the company terms Intelligent Fulfilment, which tracks demand forecasting, and warehouse labor management. This then, is a complete supply chain management solution.
At a conference last year, the company explained the differences between predictive and preventative supply chain management; predictive supply chains are more nimble and can adapt with greater speed to the inevitable changes in any supply chain. The key is, according to JDA, digitization from end-to-end.
JDA’s software is soon to utilize machine learning (ML) and/or artificial intelligence (AI), said to bring specific gains and automation to supply chain management in the near future – watch this space!
As the next stage of Industry 4.0 bases itself even more heavily in technology, the emergence of deep learning technologies to better predict trends and manage data will be soon.
Headquartered in Arizona, USA, the company has global centers in Mexico, India (Bangalore and Hyderabad) plus offices in over 40 locations across the globe. With a customer base numbering over 4000, JDA is a market-leading concern with an eye to the future.
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