Jan 24, 2017

The experts at TechnologyAdvice give their top 5 predictions for supply chain technology in the not-so-far future.

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For those of us who remember the global drama and jubilation that surrounded the coming of the millennium, 2020 probably seemed like a very distant future. But now that we’ve celebrated another new year, 2020 is just a blink away.

We’ve already seen supply chains become faster, more global, more transparent, and more efficient than ever. And with innovation (and automation) at all time high, it’s doubtless that supply chain management software will shock us as much in the next three years as drone delivery would have shocked us on January 1, 2000.

Here are four predictions for the future of supply chain technology:

  1. Technology Will Know Our Customers More Than We Ever Dreamed

The more time our customers spend online, the more today’s technology is learning how to record and analyze their behaviors. The future generation of supply chain management (SCM) technology will use these insights to become more proactive about demand planning.

If Amazon has it’s way, they’ll be shipping items to customers before customers know they need them. Of course, SCM technology will need to dig deeper into buying behavior and predictive analytics to anticipate needs and meet them in an on-demand world.

  1. Transparency Will Be Central

Ethical product sourcing is becoming increasingly important to the purchasing public, with young people and young companies willing to spend more to ensure their dollars are going to socially responsible vendors.

SCM technology is already making it possible to get alerts on risk, financial information, and ethics for members of the chain, but information that supports transparency for customers will be immediate and responsive going forward. SCM technology in 2020 will make it possible to dive deeper into the ethics of your chain and share successes or make corrections immediately.

  1. The Internet of Things Will Grow

The IoT is already making an impact in people’s homes, so it’s not a stretch to say it will expand from its current SCM role in fleet management into other realms of SCM technology in coming years. Specifically during product storage and shipment, IoT could take the form of sensors that monitor products sensitive to environmental conditions (heat, cold, pressure), or increase the digitization of product tracking and help protect against loss.

On the consumer side, IoT could function as a demand signal for the beginning of the supply chain. It’s already happening with some technology such as printers that automatically order ink when levels run low or refrigerators that reorder food. In the future, demand sensors could touch everything from office supplies to medical devices.

  1. All Procurement Will Be Digitized

The majority of small to mid-sized companies out there have yet to digitize procurement, but this will need to change quickly. Technology will continue to evolve to meet the needs of this segment of companies in order to get them on board with paperless practices.

Why? The Kraljic Matrix is evolving to meet an increasingly segmented and complicated world. It will be much more challenging for companies to manage accurate, efficient procurement strategies without automation. Many smaller operations will adopt standalone purchase order solutions, while enterprises will turn to SCM software with built-in order management.

  1. Artificial Intelligence Will Step Forward

No matter how long you’ve been in the business, it seems most SCM professionals start from ground zero on each new supply chain build. Frankly, that’s a waste of time and resources, with team members spinning their wheels on tasks they’ve done dozens of times before.

Modern SCM tools will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to cut down on repetitive tasks and to set up new chains based on patterns from the old. The automated workflows associated with AI are generally less prone to error and and will adapt  from our successes and failures to increase efficiency.

The supply chain is changing, and our technology must evolve with it. The next three years are sure to bring greater innovation to our industry than ever before.

Karri Bishop is a marketing communications specialist at TechnologyAdvice, a B2B marketing firm that connects buyers and sellers of business technology. Karri manages social media strategy and covers various topics in the industry.

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