From the implementation of Industry 4.0, the increased importance of being sustainable, the rise of supply chain technology or blockchain, the 2010’s saw some significant changes to the supply chain.
As we enter 2020, we begin not just a new year but a new decade (depending on who you ask). However, no matter what side of the argument you agree with, we can expect to see new and existing technologies continuing to play a significant role within the supply chain in the coming years. For this reason, I have dug out my crystal ball to see what the supply chain technology trends in the industry could be for the coming year.
While the development and progress of autonomous vehicles are often the stories that hit the headlines, the scope of autonomous technology is much wider than that. From robots that can move on their own to warehouse management systems (WMS), the increase in the ability to fully automate tasks will significantly influence the supply chain.
Some of this technology has been around for some time but the industry has yet to fully adopt a more automated approach. However, 2020 could be the year where automation becomes more prominent, if the results of the 2019 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey are anything to go by. The figures show that manual picking fell from 76% to 72% whereas the use of many automated technologies in warehouses increased including parts-to-person automation, voice assisted solution approaches and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS).
Blockchain allows firms to use data to have a more traceable and transparent supply chain as well as acting as a good solution to prevent counterfeiting. There’s been a significant hype surrounding blockchain for some years now, but this is likely to continue into 2020.
Blockchain is particularly popular with food and beverage companies and it is likely that more firms within the industry will implement the technology, after data from Juniper Research suggested that the implementation of blockchain could save the food industry $31 billion by 2024. However, it is not just the food and beverage industry where the implementation of blockchain could increase. It is also predicted that this will occur within the pharmaceutical industry, due to the ability to track and monitor temperature changes during transportation.
Internet of Things (IoT)
It’s not just blockchain technology that firms can use in order to improve their supply chain visibility; firms can also use technologies associated with the Internet of Things to achieve this. For instance, using IoT technology in warehouses and retail outlets can provide improved visibility in production and inventory management, and if sensors are added to transportation used in shipping and delivery, live tracking updates can be gathered.
The real-time information gathered by IoT can help service customer demands, minimize downtime and boost the overall efficiency of the supply chain, especially in logistics. Data gathered from IoT sensors on trucks can allow firms to have a better understanding of driver behavior as well as helping calculate when and how long driver stops should be and the impact of traffic on estimated arrival time. With projected global e-commerce sales of $3.9 trillion in 2020 and increased demand for fast delivery, the use of IoT in logistics is likely to increase.
5G (the fifth generation of wireless technology) is expected to provide faster upload and download speeds as well as reducing the time it takes to communicate with other wireless devices. With more and more devices in the supply chain and manufacturing process part of the IoT, which is reliant upon fast data signals in order to send real-time information, the importance of using a fast wireless network in the supply chain is increasing. While the implementation of networks needed to enable 5G remains in its early stages, it is definitely something to watch out for as the decade progresses.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Advances in AI technology including natural language processing and machine learning (ML) have resulted in AI being able to be implemented in a variety of processes along the supply chain. From predicting demand patterns and potential disruptive events through to analysis of large data sets, AI has the potential to significantly benefit the supply chain.
The uptake in companies using AI is also increasing. A 2019 Gartner survey shows that 37% of organizations have implemented the technology (a 270% increase on the same survey 4 years prior) and this is likely to increase with companies that are using it, citing that some of the benefits include improved inventory management, production planning and worker productivity.
The use of AI and ML could also be the solution to meeting consumers demand for free and fast delivery according to Arpit Jain, VP of Delivery at Nerdery. This is because the technology can be used to better predict inventory, supply and demand alongside helping with returns and shipping.
There’s no doubt that some of these technologies have been around for a while but it is for this reason that they still remain current industry trends. We are starting to see the impact that some of these technologies are having on the supply chain and the foundations have been laid for more mass uptake. As more firms implement these technologies, the impact will be wider and lead to further benefits for the supply chain. With this in mind, it looks like 2020 and the 20s in general will finally see the supply chain widely adopt further technological advancements.
Header Photo: Igor Borisenko – Getty Images