How are emerging technologies transforming the supply chain?
THE RECENT rise in customer expectations for product variety and service levels have added to the pressure that supply chain professionals face every day.
Historically, when supply chain networks were hampered with increased workload and additional fulfillment needs, they would just hire more people to see them through the period.
But this method of ramping up human workforce during dire straits is inefficient and unsustainable.
Thus, many players in the industry are turning to technology, to help increase operational efficiency and productivity to meet the demands of the digital economy.
While many technologies such as blockchain, autonomous vehicles, and additive manufacturing have been called the next big thing to revolutionize the supply chain, there are only a select few that are ready for adoption and could help improve the industry.
#1 | Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Among the many emerging technologies, industrial internet of things (IIoT) perhaps holds the most considerable promise to transform the supply chain.
In essence, IIoT helps organizations obtain timely data from greater ranges by utilizing process sensors and automatic identification transactions, to firstly power automation, and then process the data to optimize workflow and resources further.
With real-time data provided by IIoT devices, organizations will be able to make better decisions and allocate their resources accordingly.
#2 | Autonomous and collaborative robotics
While in the past, the supply chain sector has relied on additional human resources to help them handle the heavier workload, now they can turn to automation in the form of robots – both autonomous and collaborative (cobot).
Robotic technology has matured considerably in past decade or so, and they are now able to perform well-defined, repeatable tasks such as leading bar codes, sorting, high-speed inspections, and palletizing far accurately and efficiently than humans.
Furthermore, by having robots doing the heavy liftings, companies could have their human workforce to focus on what they do best such as planning and decision making.
#3 | Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Much like how robotics and automation could augment human workforce to increase productivity, artificial intelligence (AI) and its subset machine learning (ML) could greatly help rational decision making.
Deployed effectively, AI and ML could accurately analyze the vast amounts of data to pick out and report on trends using a combination of pattern-matching, neural-network training, and other techniques.
Businesses leaders then would be able to make more informed decisions based on the insights and predictive capabilities that these cutting edge technologies provide.
#4 | Dense, flexible 3D flow systems
One technology that has emerged and quickly been standardized in recent times is good-to-persons material handling systems. This is because the platform can handle a high volume, high variety load operations, and most importantly ensure high throughput.
Using shuttle-based, robot, or drone-based sortation systems that function with a high degree of flexibility in three-dimensional space, it enables efficient storage and retrieval to meet consumer demand better.
#5 | Asset-sharing systems
Asset sharing is more of a trend that is gaining traction than technology. But, asset sharing is made possible due to other integrated technologies such as IIoT, mobile networks, and cloud computing.
Many startups and established transportation providers are increasingly applying Uber-like asset sharing models to the supply chain sector to move and ship goods, which is revolutionary in itself.
Vehicle fleets and space that are not in use could be shared to ensure better resource utilization and smaller players could get onboard the network without the significant initial cost of procuring supply chain assets.
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