Technology has already improved the safety, quality and productivity of supply chains everywhere, but in the last few years, several new innovations have taken those improvements to new heights. Much of the new tech is deeply connected with automation, robotics and the digitization of previously offline elements. As to what they are exactly and how those elements are implemented, let’s find out next.
Blockchain Technology in Supply Chain Transactions
Blockchain technology is closely related to cryptocurrencies, but it’s just the base framework on which most cryptocurrencies work. Therefore, blockchain is by no means exclusive to cryptocurrencies, and neither are they interchangeable terms. To better understand the importance of blockchain in supply chain management, and how it stands to improve various aspects of supply chain management, go through the following:
- The innate transparency of all blockchain transactions ensures reliability and integrity between the suppliers and the buyers
- Disputes can easily be avoided as all parties involved in the transaction will continue to receive their copies of the same updated ledger after every transaction
- The success rate of transactions conducted by using blockchain tech is very high, which makes it a reliable choice for making and receiving fast payments as well
- Every block of data is linked to the one before and after it, so it’s easy to trace every shipment right down to its origin
- If illegal, unethical or unacceptable sources or standards were used for procuring, manufacturing or extracting the materials, blockchain makes it nearly impossible to hide that fact
Integration of CRM with SCM
CRM, or customer relationship management software, is now intricately connected with marketing, sales and customer care. It allows a company to know and serve each of their customers on almost an individual level. However, it is time that CRM software solutions were integrated into supply chain management (SCM) as well. Since this is not exactly a common practice yet, some context for explaining the advantages of doing so is necessary. After going through this article which exclusively discusses the need for CRM integration within the supply chain, we found it to be an excellent proposition that unites two different software technologies (CRM and SCM) for maximizing performance.
KPIs such as customer preference, buying patterns, market demand, etc. are all part of the data collected by a CRM system. As it happens, these are invaluable KPIs which the supply chain can also use to improve their own operational performance. For example, if the logistics department had more information regarding which unit needs what and when, they would be able to plan and initiate their deliveries with greater speed and perfect timing.
Then there is the need to monitor and manage vendors or suppliers, which is not much different from managing customers via a CRM system. When the supply chain can stay in sync with an accurate estimation about which suppliers are providing them with the best value, and which ones are proving to be unreliable or too expensive, taking decisive action for improving the situation becomes much easier. There are also various other reasons that you can read up on the article linked above, as it goes much deeper into the importance, relevance and benefits of integrating CRM with SCM.
Analytics, AI and SCM
Terms such as AI, machine learning, intelligent software, smart applications, etc. are now common in any industrial facility or office, because in some way or another, artificial intelligence is changing the face of business itself. In supply chain management, the role of adopting intelligent software and compatible hardware is immense. It is quite likely that anyone in charge of a supply chain is already working with automated processes and machines, but there might still be ample room for making improvements. On looking through some of the most impactful changes, innovations and benefits of AI integration in SCM should make identifying those gaps in technology easier.
The best analytics software solutions in the world today are powered by “experienced” software applications that:
- Organize the raw datasets
- Find patterns and trends through analysis, regarding supplier reliability, employee performance, ROI on delivery expenses, demand – supply gap, etc.
- Identify problem areas with possible solutions to each of them
- Identify weaknesses and strengths both within and around the logistics department
- Suggest strategies for countering present and future problems, based on the data fed to the software for analysis
Software Experience in SCM
As you might have noticed, the adjective “experienced” was used to designate the best analytics software solutions in SCM today. This holds tremendous significance, given that the experiences of an intelligent software resource are even more important than the fact of it being smart. Machine learning is the process that allows an algorithm to learn from its exposures, improving and becoming more productive, adaptive and decisive with each passing day. This ability of smart software resources to surpass the limitations of their programming is what truly makes all the difference.
Software cores have more information stored in them after processing multiple different types of SCM data for a long time. Moreover, even that stored data is updated and evolved continuously and automatically to further improve their efficiency. That is as close to true experience that a machine can get to right now, and it does make a huge difference. The more exposure and time that the AI has had to process relevant information, the more useful it will be for benefiting any supply chain. Of course, there are limitations to that aspect as well, since the capabilities of newer software releases may allow them to catch up with, and even surpass their older generation modules much faster.
Even then, that is a hypothetical scenario, and in case a highly used piece of smart software becomes too old for the time, developers can either update it with new features or develop a new intelligent software core, with all the “experiences” of the previous SCM system being made a part of the new software from day one.
Beyond Analytics: AI on the Move
When someone mentions logistics or the supply chain, delivery is what comes to mind immediately. It may not be the only thing that supply chain is about, but delivering, receiving and loading goods is definitely a large part of it all. By combining machine intelligence, advanced robotics and advanced automotive engineering, supply chains are starting to gain with increasing intensity. For example, Walmart has already started to add newer and longer routes for their unmanned supply and delivery trucks in Arkansas.
Autonomous, commercial vehicles and mobile equipment are being used actively inside manufacturing units, packaging facilities and supply chain units quite regularly now. These machines have lowered the risks for human workers in the supply chain, as they are the ones doing the literal heavy lifting in these facilities now. Not that every supply chain in the US uses smart robots that can move around obstacles while loading/unloading cargo of course, but the ones that have at least a few automated machines doing the job for them, report massive improvements in speed, efficiency and safety.
Tracking Software: Better and Safer Trucks
There are very strict rules in the US regarding the maximum driving hours of a truck driver between sleeping breaks. The rules keep these heavy vehicles, their cargo, others on the road, and the driver relatively safe from road accidents. The main issue was to ensure that truckdrivers were indeed following those rules. Once an accident happens and the company is facing serious lawsuits and heavy fines on multiple fronts, the knowledge that their driver fell asleep on the wheel because he was noncompliant with the regulations, cannot be of much help.
Technology has changed that, and disobeying laws, regulations and company policies secretly is no longer an option for truck drivers. That is only true if the company that they work for is willing to invest in the right tech, of course. Let us look at how the latest technology is making roads safer for everyone, by keeping a watchful eye on the safety of company trucks, their drivers and everyone around the truck.
- Smart time tracking software with A-GPS and camera integration helps supply chain managers keep a close eye on who is driving, when, and for how long
- Adaptive cruise control is a common Level 1 automation feature that lets drivers maintain the same speed and avoids letting trucks get dangerously close to other cars
- Adaptive alert systems warn drivers immediately if their eyes begin to close, keeping them from falling asleep
- Automation features can also make the truck stop safely and lockdown if the driver exceeds his maximum driving time for the day
In the future, truck accident related risks can be further mitigated when Level 5 supply chain vehicles become a reality. A human driver might still be present for handling unprecedented situations, public assurance and legal compliance, but even if they do fall asleep on the wheel, the truck will simply keep driving itself to its set destination in the safest way possible.
As you can see, there are many ways in which technology can further improve supply chain management.