From AI to Blockchain: Get To Know The Technologies Disrupting Existing Supply Chain Operating Models

Do you know which supply chain technologies are currently trending? Whether you do or do not, there is no denying that knowing your AI from your IoT will definitely give your fashion brand a competitive edge.   First, you have to understand all the moving parts and intricate processes that come into play when adopting innovation and then you will be able to take advantage of solutions that will not only make consumer-centricity possible but will also assist you when it comes to producing a blueprint of everyone involved in the production of your product.


If you are still a little green around the gills when it comes to such tech solutions, it is important that you understand that your brand’s supply chain is the heart, brain, and backbone of the business; and should, therefore, run like a well-oiled machine. For it to do so,  it is imperative that you familiarise yourself with the top trending supply chain leaders to watch in 2019. These include technologies like the well known AI, digital twins and IoT, and the yet to be widely adopted Immersive experience and Blockchain. Adopting one of these solutions will ensure that you experience the significant changes, capabilities and maturity first hand.


Trends Transforming Supply Chains


Globalised and complex, when it comes to the broader business ecosystem of the supply chain, how can businesses know how many trading partners are involved? In theory, companies should know all the parties in their supply chain network, but the truth of the matter is that raw materials and products travel across many geographical locations and pass through multiple suppliers, distributors and manufacturers, so it is not so easily done, and excitedly this is where supply chain technologies can come in.


Let’s first start off with Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is a supply chain technology that is currently trending. Known as the technology that eradicates human involvement with regards to decision making, AI has the ability to offer brands a self-learning supply chain that offers a solution that will help them automate various supply chain processes such as predictive maintenance, demand forecasting or production planning. “AI in supply chain consists of technologies that seek to emulate human performance and knowledge,” said Christian Titze, VP Analyst, Gartner. Continuing, “Such as improving order delivery and service levels by using AI capabilities to determine the routes a company should take to optimise deliveries, or optimising shipping replacement parts by applying AI algorithms and notifying users of potential equipment failure before it occurs.”


The next solution, worth a mention, is the Internet of Things (IoT). It is a supply chain solution identified by Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, as a technology beneficial to select supply chain domains.  IoT has the potential to have a broad and profound impact on the supply chain in areas such as improved customer service, enhanced end-to-end supply chain performance, and supply chain visibility and reliability.


Those seeking excitement might be drawn to the Immersive experience. It is all about user experience and how those users perceive the digital world and interact with it.  It has the capability of making a notable shift for brands looking to take advantage of immersive applications beyond isolated and single-person experiences. Immersive experiences can be used to save time, improve safety and make tedious tasks easy. A great example, stated by Gartner, is the possibility of AR providing renderings of equipment to visualise the footprint in a defined space so you can compare different configuration options or use voice-controlled personal assistants to check product features or appointments remotely.


Not many people are aware of the digital supply chain twin. Creating end-to-end visibility by being in sync with the real-world supply chain, the digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity.  In sync with the real-world supply chain and a representation of the relationships between all the relevant entities of an end-to-end supply chain, Titze explained; “Organisations would use a digital supply chain twin for all levels of supply chain decision making, from strategic through to execution. Appropriate predictive and prescriptive analytics (including machine learning and AI) would be applied to the digital supply chain twin so that aligned (and to some degree, automatic) decisions could be made.”


Lastly, we cannot talk about supply chain tech solutions without mentioning the Blockchain. It is a technology that is capable of addressing problems like counterfeiting, visibility/traceability and efficiency play. Although still in its early stages, Blockchain is a solution that has grown at a faster rate than anticipated making it an innovative technology with the power to disrupt existing supply chain operating models. “As companies seek to exploit the benefits of greater levels of digitalisation, new and innovative technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models,” said Titze.


As the advances of supply chain technology continue to progress, the next major frontier of supply chain innovation is expected to make a broad industry impact and transform supply chains. So forward-thinking brands take heed, if you want to be a leader in your field, look into adopting one of the strategic supply chain technologies especially if you are looking to accommodate the changing consumer trends while staying ahead of the shifts in the fashion system.

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde


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