Automation, AI, Blockchain -Buzzwords, or future of supply chain?

Emerging trends in Supply Chain Industry
Emerging Trends in Supply Chain Industry

According to a 2020 report from MHI and Deloitte, 12% of supply chain professionals said that their businesses are currently using artificial intelligence (AI) in their operations, with 60% expecting to be doing so in the next five years. These figures are likely to inflate the following coronavirus, as supply chains come to rely more heavily on AI for damage control and digital transformation. When it comes to the supply chain, digital transformation brings value by creating a more dynamic response between the procurement departments of suppliers and manufacturers. This is the key to stay competitive, efficient, and productive business.

Supply Chain and Operations faced a lot of brunt because of Covid-19. The only way for them to recoup and grow now is #INNOVATION. Emerging trends like location technology with blockchain could be the answer to a slicker system. Robots and automated machines have quickly stepped in to fill in the gaps during the pandemic. There has been a surge in the implementation of all sorts of machines, from decontamination robots to more sterile production devices.

Automation to the Rescue

Automation and increasing adoption of robotics is also converting the traditional storage spaces into “dark warehouses.” Autonomous mobile robots can travel anywhere in these dark warehouses navigating with built-in sensors and laser scanners, retrieving, and taking goods to people, maneuvering around obstacles in their path, and can collaborate with people. In the post COVID period, more warehouses and logistical spaces may see shuttles driving through racks, retrieving goods, and putting them on conveyor belts with autonomous vehicles roaming the warehouse with pallets of bulk products. Amid the pandemic, the switch to new technologies has gained speed; several smaller firms are exploring how digital innovation is changing industrial storage and how they can incorporate automated technology into their warehouse operations. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of autonomous forklift trucks. With fewer personnel on warehouse premises and the need to maintain rigid hygiene standards, an automated forklift fitted with navigation technology enables a person to operate a forklift without physically driving it. Software packages for smaller manufacturers have also accelerated automation in the warehouse, with self-updating cloud technologies increasingly used to manage inventory and shipping schedules without the need for human operation.

Autonomous Delivery

Autonomous delivery is also one of the emerging technologies in retail and a crucial part of the supply chain ecosystem. With various tests underway, researchers believe that automation here could revolutionize the system and reduce delivery costs by 80% to 90%. Although the current state of autonomous delivery stands with a lot of vulnerabilities, the capabilities of the technology are mesmerizing. Soon, machines will be seen carrying even heavier loads covering longer distances seamlessly. Drone usage has also increased in warehouse facilities since COVID-19 struck. While drones were on the rise as part of the push to automate warehouse operations before the pandemic, their use has rapidly accelerated in recent months as a means of managing inventory, transporting items in huge facilities, and inspecting warehouses. Amazon is a good example of the same.

Blockchain meets NFC

Resilience in supply chains depends on trust, transparency, and integrity, which can be improved through the responsible deployment of new-age technologies. NFC provides item-level tagging through the unison with blockchain. Data can be configured to flow into the blockchain ledger automatically, boosting efficiencies and strengthening trust across the entire stakeholder ecosystem. Companies such as Maersk, British Airways, and FedEx have already deployed blockchain technology in its supply chain models in the pre-COVID era successfully. Businesses have acknowledged rapid advances in technology and have put it to use while tackling the current obstacle of limited human presence for operations.

Use of Robotics

Robot picking is three to five times more efficient than manual solutions, as robots make fewer errors and provide greater flexibility on the warehouse floor where social-distancing measures would otherwise be a hindrance. Robotic solutions have also been put to work sanitizing warehouse facilities to eliminate the threat of COVID-19. Robots that administer chemical sprays and ultraviolet light can be used by warehouse facilities for deep cleaning without the need for human cleaning crews. Goods-to-person robotics minimize the contact employees have with warehouse inventory. Programmable carts can take items directly to packing stations. Robots are becoming easier to program, even more so than some traditional automation systems, allowing warehouse facilities to better cope with demand. Adding ‘Cobots’ or Collaborative robots to distribution center floors, using AI for better decision-making, or deploying automated storage and retrieval systems in fulfillment centers and adoption of the automated system is providing momentum to the supply chains of tomorrow. European robotics companies like Kuka and Universal Robots have already developed cobots for increased adoption in industrial settings of all sizes. Indian companies like iFuture Robotics and Addverb Technologies are also seeing greater interest in warehouse automation. Automation will also help to keep a check on counterfeit products. Manufacturers are already looking at intelligent labels and packaging for the goods. With contactless NFC, it would become easier to verify authenticity, check expiry dates, and gain other useful insights.

Last-Mile Agent

LMA can be used to tackle the issue of model accuracy and the speed which you can rapidly prototype. It can aid in instantly iterating and has tools that can help reduce your operating cost by at least 35 percent. It assists companies in creating models for various use-cases such as Network optimization, Sales Operation Optimization, Demand Forecasting, and much more depending on the kind of data an organization has collected. Thus, allowing enterprises to develop quickly and put it into production. While keeping in mind significant supply chain obstacles during COVID and the various factors that affect them, such as Logistics Cut downs, Manpower Shortage, and Raw Material procurement. A leading F500 FMCG/CPG company with a 3-billion-dollar revenue went from a scrabbling 20 percent accuracy to 65 percent accuracy using LMA and AI. Companies can predict the demand at even the lowest granularity (Store-Level) with area pin code forecasting. They can also be used for diversified distribution centers.

Control Towers

The concept of the “control tower” is increasingly becoming prevalent in supply chain management.  It means having the ability to track deliveries in real-time, which helps to make the delivery process more efficient. It is a hub for visibility, decision-making, and action based on real-time analytics. It provides a single view for tracking information, material, and/ or cost by monitoring the dimensions in a global supply chain, such as inventory positions or shipment in-transit status and real-time order movements to make informed and fact-based decisions.

We at Ideapoke, are all up to supercharge our clients to digitally transform. We are here to assist brands, not only in catching up with the emerging trends in the markets amidst the COVID-19 crisis, but also discover new trends to beat the competition- all with the use of AI-powered intelligence.

  • RESPOND to the market uncertainties
  • RESET your plans
  • RENEW your business

Work with us to navigate your path to growth with AI-powered research insights to empower your teams for new products, technologies, partners, and markets.

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