In today’s collaborative, global economy, no one company can deliver an end product to consumers alone. The logistics required to go from raw material and product design to a retail shelf or Amazon box are mind-boggling. Because this effort is so resource-intensive, optimal supply chain management has the ability to minimize cost, waste, time, and risk. In a global economy driven by consumers who want more, faster, humans can’t manage the supply chain alone. Innovative organizations and forward-thinking supply chain management are applying advanced technologies to supply chain challenges.
Enlisting the help of machines, either through a vendor relationship or proprietary technology, allows businesses to predict end users’ needs (demand) and adjust the supply chain accordingly (supply). Automated buying, dynamic pricing, labor scheduling, robotic inputs, and raw material tracking are all possible with the right tools and technology. All of these functions, as well as many others, must happen in real-time, all the time, and in collaboration with other members of the supply chain.
1. Tracking with Blockchain and IoT
Blockchain and the internet of things (IoT) allow for both organizations and individuals to track goods throughout the entire supply chain. This kind of transparency allows manufacturers and retailers to proactively address shortages or delays before they interrupt production or retail floors. Customers can learn more about where their purchases came from, including the raw materials used to make the goods. This deep understanding of sustainable and ethical sourcing, as well as authenticity, is increasingly playing a role in consumer decision-making.
2. Monitoring for Cybersecurity Risks
Hackers can target vulnerabilities throughout the supply chain, targeting customer data, classified information, and valuable intellectual property. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) encourages businesses to ensure they are “identifying, assessing and responding to cybersecurity risks.” Not only are finished products in danger of compromise but so are individual inputs. Low-tech manufacturers and retailers aren’t immune to this supply chain risk; any connection between internal and external systems can expose important data.
3. Analyzing the Supply Chain with AI
AI trained on relevant supply chain data can help businesses make data-backed decisions. The global economy continues to change quickly as we navigate pandemics and epidemics, political conflicts and sanctions, extreme weather, labor shortages, and—of course—demand. While it may not be possible to predict the future, AI uses all available data to inform supply chain management.
4. Simulating with Digital Twins
Any one of the supply chain challenges mentioned above can easily disrupt a business’s (or industry’s) operations. Deciding how to navigate a disruption of this scale is anything but easy. Utilizing a digital twin of the current supply chain or manufacturing process can help management make hard decisions about what comes next.