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The Digital Supply Chain Transformation : Ask or Mandate

Digitisation is undergoing changes owing to e-commerce and consumer habits such that companies are regularly revisiting their IT plans more often. There is still a cloud over where to get started when it comes to digitisation. Though there are no certain ways of figuring out the right framework for going digital, there are certain methodologies that will help figure out digital solutions sooner.

Insights can be collected from sensors, distributed data and connected assets to gather actionable improvements through digital and analytical solutions. The idea is to shift from linear supply chains to nimble and connected networks characterised by a continuous flow of analytics and information. There are defined teams that assess the value of certain digital capabilities which helps businesses to work on it for a short time and understand how far it will go. The recommendations then go to a steering committee which takes the final call. Depending on the ones that receive a nod, performance is assessed and investments continue. Otherwise, they pull the plug.

Another method is to build on an idea scale and see if it can win. Otherwise, a failed idea also teaches a lot, feel experts. Digital capabilities can be developed through a bottoms-up approach and not a top-down mentality. For example, an auto parts retailer thought of enhancing its standing by being a first call supplier of repair shops. In order to reach up to the customers, the retailer came up with an app that shop owners could use to see if a spare part was available and the app would also track delivery progress. With good inventory accuracy as well as digital functionality, the retailer was able to gain.

Companies need to be clear about their objectives and vision but also be flexible about certain adversities that can happen anytime.

It is time companies take the help of digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain to sort certain supply chain issues like using blockchain for product traceability. The idea is to use appropriate technologies only after assessing the gaps in the company’s capabilities. AI can be much more effective if the future vision and goals are in place. A SWOT analysis can help companies to assess supply chain needs. For example, a company may find gaps in sales, while another may find gaps in inventory.

With inter-departmental and cross-enterprise, technology assessment has become even more straightened out with companies being clever and clear on the areas of orchestration the company needs to work on. There are some needs under supply chain optimisation which include warehouse management systems. These processes need to have replenishment and high inventory accuracy so that predictive analysis can be done. Even a single company uses many different systems within the supply chain. For inventory in motion, having a visibility layer is helpful.

However, the real-time visibility is disrupted by data availability in multiple systems. It requires to be first collected together. For instance, the shipment details and needed updates might be in multiple systems of logistics partners or within the organisation. This is why control tower solutions that combine visibility functions with integration have gained favour. Such visibility functions should also be able to take actions and be able to deliver on time. The key to digitisation lies in real-time accessible information through IoT or cloud-based predictive analytics. These solutions don’t need to be created but can be serviced from third-party logistics which offer supply chain strategy around shipment visibility. Thinking big can help companies to widen their vision but not at the cost of limiting the company’s efforts.

Supply chain transformation with IoT, machine learning and robotics

Today, logistics and transport businesses are investing into Internet of Things (IoT)-based smart technologies in order to gain an edge and amass a wealth of opportunities that the fourth industrial revolution will provide. The sector is taking proactive steps and prioritising machine learning, IoT and robotics to increase efficiencies across the supply chain.

Next-generation technologies are being explored by transport companies in pursuit of digital transformation. In terms of popularity, machine learning and robotics are both 37 per cent favoured, followed by 3D printing with 29 per cent.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the digital transformation drive is supply chain which is set to witness efficiency improvements and visibility in the near future and is already showing a marked improvement in terms of visibility and efficiency.

The field of IoT-based technologies is set to see a huge improvement in manufacturing, storage and delivery of goods and products. With investments in robotics, machine learning and automation, companies will be able to gain more secure and profitable operations across their supply chain and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain.

Machines that are adept at quickly connecting and retrieving stock can navigate through any circumstances and make automatic route corrections based on real-time information updates. These updates are invaluable for any organisation dealing in logistics. Unmanned aerial drones and smart robots without carrying heavy loads, rest breaks and those that can bypass areas without congestion or heavy traffic will be hugely important. With their ability to schedule predictive repairs and self-diagnose faults, they will help minimise maintenance costs and down-time and enhance the overall supply chain management.

The worldwide supply chain will need to be in constant communication and connected through data-driven smart machines that use sensors to transmit and receive information. But this may be challenging in areas where there is little to no mobile coverage which are called blackspots.

To access the full value of IoT-based solutions and end-to-end communications between robots, device sensors and smart machines across any region on Earth, logistics companies will need reliable and continuous connectivity-enabled satellite communications technology. This will ensure real-time synchronisation between valuable data and assets of transport and logistics to make necessary workflow improvements to increase their chances of win in a competitive digital world. These technologies can enable companies to make a name for themselves by pushing changes to supply chain management.

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