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Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age, Part One

Posted by Chris Wright on Mar 5, 2019 6:17:42 PM

Today we are literally surrounded by technology. Data permeates each of us syncing our cars, our phones and our tablets. It even makes our TVs ‘smart.’ Cellular traffic, ubiquitous to even the most remote locations, feeds our growing appetite for information. It even communicates on our behalf when geographical or linguistic limitations impede our ability to effectively articulate location or intent.

The world has gone digital, and while we don’t know what today’s technology will produce tomorrow, we do know one thing; technology is changing our world at a pace never before seen. The disruptive nature of this change offers great opportunity for those willing to acknowledge it, embrace it and take risks using it, to carve out their own successes.

In this three-part series, we’ll discuss the application of technology within the operational protocols of a supply chain management system. We’ll discuss predictive analytics (PA), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), automation and internet of things (IOT); all technologies that are influencing supply chain management in new and potentially profound ways.

The Supply Chain Reaction

Supply chain management operates on the frontiers of technology and information management  Specialists in the field have long seen the need to understand their world through the objective lens of data and processes. As such, supply chain development organizations such as APICS and WERC have been around for decades to share best practices and educate the forces that matter most in a supply chain – people.

In an interconnected world, the relevance of supply chain management increases geometrically, and the stakes continue to rise. Supply chain practitioners help grow economies through improved systems that offer more functionality with increased efficiency, resulting in businesses with reduced operating costs, increased margins and expanded brand awareness. Effectively managed and operated, supply chains facilitate business profits, drive employment and generate economic wealth regionally, state-wide and nationally.

For decades, emerging technologies have been the vanguard for smarter, cheaper, faster delivery methods in supply chain management. Smarter is a differentiator – all things equal, a more informed and insightful design at the same price shall prevail. Cheaper is an enabler and a competitive advantage. And, faster is the new black. Amazon, Uber, Netflix and others have already taught us that today’s consumers expect faster and more flexible methods of delivery; enterprise supply chains are no different. Modern supply chains must offer the option of faster service or suffer the fate of big-box retail, traditional taxi service and Blockbuster. Differentiation, price and speed to market are always decision points in supply chain engagements and so, as supply chain practitioners, our proposals, designs and implementations must be well represented by each. Previewed below are parts two and three, forthcoming.

A Sneak Peak of “Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age,” Parts II and III

Blog II will focus on perhaps the most commonly discussed technology within supply chain management – automation and IOT. For ops managers, data scientists and CFOs, automation and IOT’s signature of efficiency, cost reduction and data capture generate great excitement. Each of these on an individual basis, are powerful. However, when combined their rates of return are compounded on an enormous scale through operational improvements in efficiency, accuracy and cycle time. Other factors facilitating the need to invest in supply chain management also will be discussed.

Blog post #3, will focus on advanced analytics. Although the least exploited, I believe advanced analytics represents the greatest opportunity for supply chain managers. I’ll discuss how companies are using PA and ML to make smarter supply chain decisions, in addition to how the promise of these technologies helps redirect human capital and expertise to higher level decisions required for solving other supply chain issues. We’ll touch on a little for everyone in this blog– from the Star Trek to the ultra-practical – and in doing so, explore a number of common supply chain problems that beg for the attention of some form of advanced analytics.

Supply chain management’s legacy reflects an affinity for technology in reducing cost, improving productivity and increasing margins. Today more than ever, advances in technology allow present supply chain managers a way to achieve and accelerate returns faster, cheaper and smarter. For more information on the importance of supply chain management in making your business more efficient, more profitable and more successful, visit us on line at www.servicesbytechdata.com/services/supply-chain-management-services

 About the Author

Chris Wright serves as the director of program and project management within Global Lifecycle Management, a specialized solutions business of Tech Data.

Tags: digital, supply chain, services, digital services, supply chain management services

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