August 2018 | Commentary | IT Matters: Logistics & Supply Chain Technology

Leveraging Technology: Put Strategy First

Tags: Logistics, Technology , Supply Chain

Michael Gravier is Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Bryant University, 401-232-6950

With all the hype about technology's potential, it's easy to lose track of the basic truth that technology enables strategy. Technology applied to an inappropriate strategy will accelerate a firm's demise.

Tech trends enable strategies that are reshaping global supply chains. These new technologies complement each other; used in combination they create synergies far beyond their individual impacts. Here are five key strategies that technologies of the near future will empower:

  1. Synchronicity. ERP systems are integrating CRM and other data with the help of the cloud and artificial intelligence. The most important advancement is incorporating relationship data.

    Relationship data empowers synchronicity. Synchronicity relies on powerful planning processes and linked technology solutions to create outcomes that enable the entire supply chain to sense a deviation or disruption immediately and respond as a coherent unit.

    Rather than try to avoid disruptions, synchronized supply chains maximize agility and automatically rebalance priorities to achieve the best possible outcome.

  2. Consequences. New tools including blockchain and cloud computing provide the opportunity to see where everything comes from and where it is going. Supply chain mapping has been a dream for most companies. How many truly know who their suppliers' suppliers are?

    The impending flood of data has already begun shifts in risk management strategies. Smart companies invest heavily in supply chain transparency, and then use that knowledge to study the consequences of a disruption.

    Rather than separate response plans and analyses for a tsunami, strike, or other causes, big data and analytics applied to blockchain and cloud data allow insight into the impacts on inventory, customer service, and other consequences, which empowers creation of flexible and impactful responses. These transparency technologies have already empowered some companies to shift their thinking from sources to consequences to improve resilience.

  3. Accountability. Social media has only just begun to impact supply chains. The increased transparency from blockchain and other technologies will create an identity crisis across thousands of supply chains. The new insights will provide a deeper understanding into who your company really does business with, and the results will be similar to political and entertainment news these days: massive interest by activist groups and the public in how goods and services are delivered. Smart companies already engage on social media, sharing details of their operations, issues, and responses.
  4. Conservation. Managing carbon footprints only go so far in a world where long product development and demand lead times create unnecessary production and distribution. 3D printing, combined with other transparency technologies, allows companies to postpone production until demand is nearly certain.

    With the promise of reduced resource use, and less supply chain complexity, 3D printing will infiltrate any part of a supply chain with variable demand, high innovation rates, and risky supply sources.

  5. Empowerment. New robotics and drones focus on increasing human worker productivity. An unforeseen consequence of doubling productivity will be the empowerment of workers. Expect smart workers to realize that they need training to maintain their value, and to demand more advanced robots in the future.

    Companies that have started to develop these strategies are best positioned to leverage the technologies.






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