IL Good Question: If you could invent one tool to help you do your job better, what would it be?
Readers reveal the yet-to-be-invented tools that would be supply chain game-changers as well as the most recent innovations starting to make their jobs easier.
AI-driven sustainable materials testing. It hasn’t quite made an impact yet, but it will in the next five years. Often new sustainable materials require significant work to source them, then test them to figure out what is feasible and at what cost; this process can take years. AI is in the early stages of proving we can reduce testing times.
Founder and CEO
Advancements in RFID technology, including the ability to track temperature, humidity, and light, are game changers in the agricultural supply chain space. Passive data collection allows for real-time identification of issues and opportunities that optimize supply chain velocity and quality.
Software that helps create visibility into supplier practices has been the greatest recent innovation. Combined with risk intelligence, it helps me quickly understand how suppliers would react to potential disruptions, allowing me to advise my clients on how to plan ahead and be proactive.
Practice Director, Security and Resilience
Teleportation, cost-effective massive 3D printers, cloning, automated trucks, AI. It’s all going to happen eventually.
VP, National Sales
The ultimate translator defining our words. It would be a form of closed captioning, defining the meaning of the words people use to communicate with. The notion of establishing meaning up front and speaking the same language allows for faster communication and less rework over misunderstandings.
Vice President, Operations
A device that is able to decipher every document, email, and conversation about freight, transportation, and supply chain and pull out the most relevant information depending on who is using the device. Shippers, receivers, manufacturers, customers, dock workers, and drivers wouldn’t need to waste time scouring over pages hunting for their information; it would be easily found and perfectly organized.
Director of Operations
A widely accepted universal logistics language. There is some standardization, but that which is not standardized still adds length, time, and complexity to the process and dialogue. A language is a tool. If one could be “written” that bridged the elements that are international standards with those that still differ, then significant time, money, and resources would be saved.
Director, Marketing & Business Planning
GPS-enabled paper. Incorporate a GPS locator with a shipment’s packing slip. The question I routinely get is, “Where is my shipment?” While some carriers excel at this, some struggle. With this invention, I would have the answer to everyone’s question.
Supply Chain Specialist
Natural Fiber Welding
A dangerous goods (DG) compliance app that connects with your transportation management system, warehouse management system, and enterprise resource planning system to validate your DG shipments against current regulations, reducing manual intervention and rejected shipments. The app also would help ensure your DG shipments are packaged, marked, and transported compliantly from any of your shipping warehouses.
VP, Software & Customer Success
A social network for supply chains. Except it’s only somewhat social and includes a marketplace to collaborate around the exchange of goods and services. The idea here would be that companies can build partnerships, drive key cross-organization workflows, and share/host feedback to build credibility.
Principal Solutions Consultant
A crystal ball. As solution providers, we talk a lot with the community about the challenges facing logistics ecosystems and supply chains, and we collect feedback on how our solutions could help them address these challenges. However, it would be awesome if we could have a 12-month head start over such challenges arising in the first instance.
SVP and Head of Marketing and Solutions
SAP Business Network
A tool that examines how supply chain outages propagate by simulating different scenarios considering past and current demand, disruption risk, material flow, and more. Specifically, the tool could enable multilevel quantitative analysis to explore the effects of forward and backward disruption propagation, moderated by network structure, network status, and node-level vulnerability.
Artificially intelligent capacity systems. Every year, 29 billion empty truck miles are recorded in the United States. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows us to create systems that alert the network of available space and maximize truck capacity by picking up extra loads. This drives up revenue and creates a more efficient supply chain.
A tool that consolidates data in real time for every shipment. While today’s technologies can solve operational issues, the barrier is the lack of transparency and data sharing capabilities across the supply chain.
A digital twin of my entire ecosystem — my enterprise, suppliers, contract manufacturers, distributors, etc. That digital twin would have real-time visibility and concurrent planning capabilities, provide quick assessments of the impact of changes in the ecosystem, and have the ability to do quick what-if scenarios and drive rapid decision making.
Industry Thought Leader
Dynamic freight matching that can be easily managed across multiple platforms. Many companies have platforms that “match” carriers with available loads based on a multitude of variables, but there’s still a lot of manual operation behind the scenes.
In a true dynamic freight matching environment, carriers would be linked with loads across multiple platforms and supply chains. Shippers would be able to use the best carriers to meet their deliverable metric goals and optimize a carrier’s time, creating the optimal efficiency gains.
Director of Account Management
A system to help upskill truck drivers and give them opportunities to grow their job into a career. Your drivers are your ambassadors—give them more responsibility in a world marked by recruitment and retention issues. Current drivers could be a sales engine.
An intelligent, multimodal TMS for SMB shippers and carriers that provides this underserved market with a single platform that automates and simplifies the entire transportation process—serving SMBs’ logistics needs the way NetSuite handles accounting or Workday manages HR functions—consolidating tasks, optimizing loads, enhancing visibility, at no cost.
EVP Product Strategy
Transportation Insight & NTG
A real-time market analytics update generator. It would give transparent, fair, live quotes based on capacity, fuel costs, weather emergencies, and truck-to-load ratios.
Senior Sales Manager
A Star Trek transporter. It could charge whatever I wanted.
VP, Warehousing & Distribution
World Distribution Services
I wish there was an easy button for sharing emissions information across supply chains. It would be pivotal to taking meaningful, business-conscious steps towards more sustainable supply chains.
Founder and CEO
A global database to organize and streamline all industry notifications, i.e. ocean carrier advisories, rail notices (embargoes, delays, strikes), port activity (congestion, closures, vessel/flight delays). Having this information real-time, in a central repository would reduce the need to check and validate multiple sources and would support and enhance contingency planning.
Global Account Director
An aggregation tool to identify alternative suppliers for custom-made work and quote their lead times automatically, as well as determine their inventory levels for common components. It would make searching for suppliers at the time when parts are needed less panic-driven.
Co-founder and CEO
Have a great answer to a good question?
Be sure to participate next month. We want to know:
Do you think supply chain globalization is in retreat? Why or why not?
We’ll publish some answers. Tell us at editor[email protected] or tweet us @ILMagazine #ILgoodquestion