Every supply chain is different, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the trends shaping the industry as a whole. New technology is fundamentally changing the way modern supply chains operate. Companies that fail to roll with the changes risk being left in the dirt.
To help companies prepare for what’s to come, independent research and advisory firm Gartner recently released a report identifying the top supply chain technology trends for 2019. The technologies that made the list have yet to be widely adopted. But in the coming years, we expect to see a lot more from them.
Here are a few key supply chain technology trends identified by Gartner that companies should keep an eye on.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is on every industry’s radar right now. Chatbots are streamlining customer service functions. Intelligent traffic lights are being tested on roads, with the goal of reducing accidents and congestion. And when it comes to supply chain management, this technology is enhancing human decision-making, supporting everything from demand forecasting and production planning to predictive maintenance.
AI is also likely to have a major impact on shipping processes. For example, it may be able to optimize delivery routes, establishing more efficient lines that reduce fuel consumption, bringing shipping prices down.
Leading-edge transportation management systems already have optimization features built in. But these systems are only going to become more sophisticated and powerful over time.
Lack of end-to-end visibility is a major concern for many companies. This problem will only become worse as supply chains grow more complex and global. Advanced analytics can provide a clearer view, helping managers make more strategic—and profitable—decisions.
Companies have access to more data than ever before. Using advanced analytics tools, supply chain managers can take this data and extrapolate actionable insights that drive serious organizational improvement. They can also adjust the supply chain to respond to market fluctuations more dynamically, based on real-time information.
Driver shortages, rising fuel prices, and changing trucking regulations are sending shipping costs soaring, so it’s no surprise that companies are eager to explore autonomous shipping solutions. This trend has naturally led to a lot of hype around autonomous vehicles. And while the technology is far from perfect yet, it’s likely to one day revolutionize logistics as we know it.
Self-driving trucks are already on the roads, albeit only in a testing capacity. A widespread rollout could immediately relieve the capacity crunch facing shippers today.
What’s more, self-driving trucks have the potential to dramatically improve safety on the roads. Their systems will be faster than human reflexes in the event of danger, and they won’t become tied on long-haul drives. This should have a positive ripple effect on delivery accuracy, ensuring more orders arrive on time and undamaged.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
Automation will also significantly streamline processes along the supply chain. Robotic process automation (RPA) is especially useful when it comes to repetitive manual tasks that don’t really benefit from the human touch. This includes simple but tedious actions like entering information from an invoice into a company’s systems and continually monitoring inventory levels to identify the right time to reorder.
Not only can RPA software increase plant efficiency, but it can also reduce the potential for mistakes. Human error is especially common when an employee is doing a boring task over and over, causing their mind to wander. But machines don’t get distracted. As such, forward-thinking supply chain managers are already delegating much of the busy work to machines—allowing employees to shift their focus toward more strategic, value-added tasks.
The future is bright for supply chains
This has been a tough year for supply chains. Rising shipping prices, geopolitical uncertainty, and other challenges show no signs of abating. But these new and emerging technologies will help supply chain managers weather the storm and come out on top, no matter what the future brings.
At CTSI-Global, we’re committed to helping our clients solve the problems of tomorrow by improving processes today. Our suite of industry-leading supply chain and logistics tools is designed to help companies tackle their biggest challenges head-on—increasing end-to-end visibility, maximizing efficiency, and bringing costs down.
Prepare for a more productive and profitable future. Partner with us today.