Supply Chain & Logistics - Connected Corners

Spotlight on 5 key enablers of smart supply chain & logistics

This topic focuses on some of the key enablers that support the ongoing development of smart supply chain initiatives; including many of the key supply chain & logistics trends

In an ever evolving consumer, industry, technology & regulatory environment; the need for smart supply chain function has never been greater…

…and this topic casts a spotlight on some of the key enablers that could support its development as well as many of the key SCO/SCM & logistics trends

Quick note: Despite some similarities inherent to the broader supply chain & logistics functions across various industry verticals; each business is relatively unique (geographic presence, product mix, strategic goals, industry partnerships, et al.) and as such their digital strategies, connected solutions, CX programs & technology investments would vary to reflect their individual goals & capabilities

Smart supply chain & logistics

Set of inter-related technologies are helping businesses transform their traditional supply chain & logistics function into more intelligent, traceable & transparent, always-on, anticipatory and efficient (smart supply chain & logistics)

Integrating technologies such as cyber-physical systems, connectivity protocols, predictive analytics engine, cloud & edge computing could help businesses improve their supply chain visibility, build scalable & modular SCO/SCM platforms and develop real-time analytics, insights & recommendation capabilities amongst others

Smart supply chain & logistics ecosystem also facilitates seamless collaboration, transactions and communication between businesses in its end-2-end network; partly from the integration of interoperable tech stacks, connectivity protocols and technology roadmaps

Spotlight on 5 key enablers

There are a multitude of technological initiatives under 5 key enabler categories that could support the development and management of a smart supply chain & logistics function and end-2-end ecosystem

Smart supply chain: key enablers - Connected Corners

1. Connected technologies & IoT (smarter)

Connected technologies; consisting of varying combination of IoT (sensors, modules & beacons), RFID solutions and a mix of local (WiFi, Bluetooth, et al.)& wide area (LoRa, NGN/5G, et al.) networking protocols; form the foundation of smart supply chain & logistics function & ecosystem

Businesses integrating connected technologies across their existing supply chain & logistics infrastructure, assets, transport fleets and even products-in-transit themselves…

… could unlock vital real-time insights, reporting and corrective action recommendations that are highly beneficial for their supply chain managers seeking to extract every bit of operational efficiency gain

Smart supply chain ecosystems embedded with AI & ML tech can further be programed to not only have advanced situational awareness and predictive capabilities but also automatically correct anomalies in real-time with minimal/no manual intervention

Cold supply chain is one such area where the implementation of various connected technologies are not only benefiting its value chain players but also end consumers alike

2. Blockchain (traceable & transparent)

Consumers & businesses are increasingly wanting to know where their products particularly fresh produce & perishables – have originated from (traceability) and the journey it has taken (transparency)Enter Blockchain!

Blockchain platform’s inherent traits – namely; shared ledger (with authorized parties), near-real-time immutable updates, cryptographic security and auditable smart contracts – in unison with apt connected technologies (RFID, IoT, etc.) has the potential to unlock authentication & transparency at every step of the product’s supply chain journey

Blockchain could also support businesses within the supply chain network to monitor & enforce key factors such as environmental sustainability, ethical procurement, inventory wastage/shrinkage, et al. from the point of origin through to manufacture, warehousing, distribution and last mile delivery journey

3. Cloud & Edge Computing (always-on)

Cloud platform’s role within the smart supply chain ecosystem is to enable businesses with ‘one source of truth’ data structure, virtualized insights capabilities and an always-on reporting & recommendation platform

Connectivity technologies (IoT, et al.), predictive analytics engine & blockchain tech when augmented with cloud platform have the ability to further amplify the overall value proposition of smart supply chain ecosystem for its network partners and end customers alike

Additionally, emerging edge computing solutions – that allows for processing & analyses of large volumes of data at the closest network point to the main cloud data center – can also enable local (supply chain) facilities

…to have their very own satellite’ cloud data center solution that helps in reducing network lag, alleviating strain on main data center, enabling faster data processing capabilities and providing redundancy in the event downtime & failure at ‘mothership’ cloud data center

4. Predictive Analytics Engine (anticipatory supply chain)

For a wide range of businesses; there is a growing appetite for forecasting supply chain disruptions caused by unforeseen events; particularly high impact ones (anticipatory supply chain)…as well as developing its key enablerpredictive analytics engine

Predictive analytics engine can also supercharge existing insights control tower capabilities; particularly for those businesses who’ve chosen to outsource majority/all of their SCM/SCO function to external SCaaS providers

Additionally, businesses are no longer bound to physically housing capital intensive data processing infrastructure on their premises… instead leveraging the power of cloud solutions; can integrate real-time data analytics capabilities within a virtual environment (virtual analytics engine)

Smart inventory management is one such area where predictive analytics is actively being applied by CPG/FMCG & retail businesses seeking to achieve a calculated balance between JIT (cost/waste reduction) vs. JIC (managing customer delight/CX) inventory practices

5. AI, ML & Automation (proactive & efficient)

Imagine how proactive and resource efficient a smart supply chain function powered by AI, ML + automated system could be… and that is just one of the many benefits of these underlying technologies

Some of the scenarios that an AI, ML + automation driven smart supply chain function could address are –

  • Anticipatory SCO modeling for unforeseen eventualities; particularly low frequency/high impact ones; thereby supercharging models that traditionally relied soley on historical data points
  • Automating the optimization of demand & supply planning functions that involve large sets of dynamic variables such as purchase propensity (consumer segment/demographic, location et al.), inventory goals (JIT vs. JIC), promotional activities (un/planned, ATL, BTL, et al.), distribution & storage preference, proposition mix (D2C, B2B2C, et al.) and more
  • Unifying & cleansing multiple un/structured data sets across all of the business functions within the supply chain network as well as identifying & correcting vital missing data points, inconsistent data entries, formulating holistic insights and even detecting product shrinkage across its inventory chain
  • Intelligently automating a plethora of everyday repetitive SCO tasks with varying degree of complexities; such as –
    • digital functions such as automated invoicing, order management systems, CRM, et al.
    • warehousing operations such as automated order picking, sorting, packing, loading, et al.
    • distribution tasks; including emerging last mile delivery semi/autonomous solutions for select product categories (think: robot deliveries)

…and many more

So…

A range of inter-related technologies are increasingly making every aspect of traditional supply chain & logistics function a lot more intelligent, transparent, flexible and scalable

These connected & digital enablers typically have their own innovation & improvement roadmaps as well as correlating trends (technology, industry, et al.) that may/not be directly related to the supply chain & logistics segments they support

In driving a smart supply chain & logistics transformation program; value chain players will face a myriad of strategic, technological and operational challenges…

…including developing an interoperable set of systems, platforms, tech stacks, frameworks, protocols & policies that allow for seamless communication, data/insights sharing and corrective action recommendation workflow across every business within the supply chain network (suppliers, manufacturers, warehousing & transport providers, distributors, retailers, et al.)

For businesses; developing this smart supply chain function could reduce costs, enable real-time insights & recommendations, drive predictive intelligence (consumer, market, industry & competitive) as well as have the potential to create a diversified revenue opportunity for its value chain players (think: SCaaS)

Forthcoming topics will aim to explore each of these technological enablers in further detail, including their benefits, limitations, outsource/in-source models as well as potential challenges in initial implementation and ongoing lifecycle management

Stay tuned!