7 Supply Chain Technologies of the Future

January 28, 2022

The global supply chain is an integral part of society and the business world. A functioning global supply chain is essential for helping businesses recover from the pandemic shutdowns and getting essential products into the hands of consumers. 

However, a combination of events throughout 2021 — port closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a retiring workforce creating labor shortages, the Suez Canal blockage, natural disasters, and changing customs and trade laws — took front and center in disrupting the supply chain management industry. 

Amid heightened consumer demands and the increasing complexity of global logistics systems, supply chain organizations need to adapt for any incoming challenges. Technological advancements in the supply chain are an integral part of preparing organizations for the future. For individuals interested in obtaining supply chain technology skills, an advanced degree like a Master of Science in Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management can prepare them with the skills and knowledge to make an impact.

Innovations in Supply Chain Technology

By leveraging technology in the supply chain, organizations can digitally transform their operations to mitigate the current challenges and prepare for future disruption. Here are seven top technological supply chain innovations that are already making an impact and influencing future success in the industry.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI), when combined with automation and data analytics, can learn to mimic human intelligence and action in supply chain organizations to streamline workflows, saving organizations time and money. 

For example, AI can recognize patterns in human activities, such as documentation verification and approval processes, and automate these tasks, creating opportunities for individuals to focus more on tasks that only humans can perform. In some cases, supply chain organizations use AI to automate more advanced tasks, such as demand forecasting and preventive maintenance.

2. Big Data

Digitization — the transformation of information into digital format — is the primary driver of big data, which can help organizations get insights into trends and patterns throughout the supply chain. With big data analytics, organizations can analyze customer behavior, helping them understand consumer preferences and better predict demand. Additionally, big data enables supply chain managers to minimize costs and improve processes by giving them a glimpse into trends and data in key areas, such as:

  • Shipping
  • Inventory
  • Manufacturing
  • Warehousing
  • Transportation

3. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) encompasses sensors, software, and devices to create a network of connected physical objects that communicate with each other. The rising adoption of IoT technologies coincides with edge computing trends. Edge computing describes a form of computing conducted close to a data source, reducing the need for a data center to process data in some instances. 

For example, sensors can collect real-time data from machines in warehouses and fleet vehicles and transmit it to a nearby device. This information may help a supply chain manager identify potential faulty patterns that slow down production and determine if a part needs maintenance or replacement.

4. Cloud Computing

Supply chain management software (SCMS) is an essential supply chain technology for executing transactions across the entire supply chain; managing supplier relationships; and managing product development, sourcing, production, and logistics processes. Traditionally, this type of software resides on premises: Supply chain organizations have the added cost of paying for infrastructure and staff to maintain it. Cloud computing eliminates this cost as supply chain organizations can access their computing services all via the web. Examples are:

  • Servers
  • Storage
  • Databases
  • Networking systems
  • Software
  • Analytics tools

5. Advanced Supply Chain Management Software

Various functions within the supply chain — from product development and engineering to supply chain management and production planning — are often siloed because different systems are used to manage each process. Advanced SCMS connects all aspects of the supply chain to provide better visibility and coordinate activities across a supply chain organization’s entire network. This helps to achieve key efficiencies that support business goals. 

For example, by optimizing the supply chain process with advanced SCMS, organizations can reduce the time between manufacturing and final delivery, getting products to customers faster and improving their satisfaction.

6. Blockchain

People often focus on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin when discussing blockchain. Blockchain is a digital record-keeping technology with robust data security and authentication capabilities — ideal for ensuring secure financial transactions. It can also help track products and goods throughout the supply chain process securely, and it can automatically, accurately, and quickly perform transactions without increased risk, improving supply chain efficiency and transparency. 

For example, a manufacturer can scan and record the Global Product Classification (GPC) — a universal set of standards to categorize all types of products — in the blockchain to create an unalterable history of a product throughout the supply chain.

7. 5G Networks

The fifth-generation (5G) cellular network represents a massive opportunity for supply chain  management. 5G is helping organizations digitally transform their supply chain, enabling end-to-end electronic connectivity to track the movement of goods and information in real time at every step of the supply chain. By increasing data speed and processing capabilities, 5G technologies can help supply chains reduce latency and improve production processes at much faster speeds and with improved reliability.

Advance Your Career in Supply Chain Management and Logistics

Supply chain technology is creating opportunities for the supply chain management industry. Organizations can leverage the power of big data, AI, IoT, and the cloud to improve and automate supply chain processes. 5G and advanced SCMS help improve the speed and agility of the supply chain. Blockchain can also help improve product traceability and operational transparency while improving coordination between supply chain partners. 

For students looking to acquire the knowledge and skills to help organizations benefit from supply chain technology, the Athens State University’s online Master of Science in Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management program offers three tracks: Executive Leadership, Logistics Information Systems, and Artificial Intelligence. Discover how Athens State University can help you develop technological knowledge for leadership careers in supply chain management and logistics.

Recommended Readings

What Is a Logistics Degree?

What Is Supply Chain Management and Why Is It Important?

Supply Chain Management: Salary and Job Outlook

Sources:

Fictiv, “10 Trends Shaping the Future of Supply Chain Management”

Forbes, “Emerging Technologies In Supply Management to Consider Investing In”

Gartner, “Gartner Top 8 Supply Chain Technology Trends for 2020”

GS1, Global Product Classification (GPC)

Harvard Business Review, “Building a Transparent Supply Chain”

The New York Times, “How the Supply Chain Broke, and Why It Won’t Be Fixed Anytime Soon”

SelectHub, “How Cloud Supply Chain Software Revolutionizes Operations”

SpringerOpen, “Predictive Big Data Analytics for Supply Chain Demand Forecasting: Methods, Applications, and Research Opportunities”

SupplyChain, “Cloud Computing in the Supply Chain”