How Disruptive Technologies and Digitization is Transforming Supply Chain & Logistics

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Over the coming year, what will be the most important developments in disruptive technology?

When we think about technology, we often think about physical devices that are electrical or digital. In fact, technology encompasses far more than that. The dictionary definition refers to Technology as, “methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes.” As we look to the year ahead tech disruption will be driven as much by the methods and systems as it is by the devices, we associate with tech disruption.

It’s impossible to predict exactly which trends will become the most disruptive over the coming years. That being said, there are a number of developments that have and will continue to shape business strategies.

From automation to sustainability, organizations are adapting to a whole new wave of consumer preferences. So, this year, which themes can we expect to see influencing businesses and consumers alike?

  1. Personal data value platforms

Personal data has become an economic asset. However, a lack of consumer knowledge about exactly what it is used for and how much it is really worth could lead to a reluctance to share data. Personal data value platforms will help to inform individuals about the value of their data, driving a wave of new products and services aimed at helping consumers to take ownership of their personal information. The introduction of legislation like GDPR will also contribute to this goal as organizations will have to comply with strict data protection rules.

2. Huge growth in the as-a-service model

The growth of the as-a-service business model has resulted from changes in both corporate and consumer needs. Customer demand for resources has triggered innovation in the reuse and remanufacture of goods, reflecting the trend of environmental awareness and a preference for access over ownership. For businesses, as-a-service solutions cut costs by simplifying IT infrastructure. Between 2016 and 2020, the global XaaS (anything as-a-service) market is forecasted to grow drastically each year.

3. Voice-based virtual assistants become ubiquitous

The wide uptake of home-based and virtual assistants like Watson, Alexa, Google Home, Cortana, and Siri has built confidence in conversational interfaces, leading to a Man-Machine interaction- Natural Language Processing. IBM, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple have taken a prime position between brand and customer, capitalizing on conversational convenience.

4. Renewables and Clean Energy near a tipping point

The cost of renewables is plunging faster than anticipated as the efficiencies of wind turbines and solar panels increase. This, coupled with huge advances in energy storage, will see the continued decline of fossil fuels. Incumbent businesses like Shell and BP are shifting their focus to renewable options as consumers gradually adopt clean energy options. One of the most notable triumphs of the renewable cause has been the manufacture of economically viable electric vehicles, and the implementation of an infrastructure to support them.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Machine Learning and Data Analytics: Access to authentic and reliable data has been the biggest boon of digitization. For the Supply Chain Management and the Logistics sector as well, the intelligent analysis of data has helped create a massive transformation in not just managing client expectations but also to increase efficiency, cut costs and drive growth.

6. Internet of Things (IoT)

 IoT is the ability for multiple physical objects to connect to the internet and share data, without human intervention. This has effectively transformed several businesses in cold supply chain monitoring, including logistics. Listed below are some practical applications of IoT:

  • Safety in supply chain management by reducing human interactions and the risk of accidents.
  • Implementation of sustainable processes through the optimization of resources, including energy consumption.
  • Seamless and end-to-end visibility of the supply chain through digitally connected devices.
  • Inventory management and inventory replenishment.
  • Effective fleet management through digitally connected devices that can assist in tracking maintenance schedules, vehicle usage, and service routes, and cut fleet downtime.

7. Blockchain

Blockchain, a distributed database that maintains an ever-growing list of records called ‘blocks’, transfers information with a timestamp that is locked and cannot be altered. Blockchain offers a distributed trust environment. Blockchain can serve as the backbone of new types of cooperation between machines (M2M) and between humans (H2H). At a very high level, the blockchain is a decentralized shared ledger or list of all transactions across a peer-to-peer network that irrevocably records and transfer of a digital asset. Every transaction has an associated digital fingerprint, which uniquely identifies the owner of that transaction and creates audibility. Trust is created by cryptographic algorithms by ensuring transactions are immutable. Blockchains can be either Public Blockchain (Permission fewer Blockchains), Private or Consortium Blockchains (Permissioned Blockchains). Business establishments mainly invest in private blockchains that are used for keeping a record of transaction data in virtual environments (Cloud) accessible only to a defined or a known network.

The Bottom Line

While the industry is suddenly flooded with data unlike ever before, digitization of processes continues to remain a challenge. Despite this, the industry is waking up to the potential transformation that it can undergo by leveraging the new-age technologies that can drive the sector in the near future. There are vast opportunities, from improving performance to creating customer satisfaction, and the supply chain partners, as well as Logistics Service Providers, are increasingly seeing the benefits of being a part of a digitally integrated value chain that is truly global, scalable, agile, and cost-effective.

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