Why NextGen Tech Like Blockchain and AI Will Transform Your Supply Chain
Today's supply chains are no longer simple Point A to Point B networks. They're a digital, on-demand, and always-on ecosystem of complex, interconnected relationships. Every link relies on a coordinated, non-stop exchange of data in order to meet customer expectations for flexibility, visibility, and transparency—regardless of available workforce. Addressing these challenges requires next generation (NextGen) technologies like robotics and automation, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable and mobile devices, as well as driverless vehicles and drones.
For five years MHI has annually monitored the effects of NewGen tech on supply chains. Our surveys asked 1,100 business leaders how their supply chain operations, security, and workforce are affected by these technologies. Findings are released in the MHI Annual Industry Report. (Download "Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Innovation" at MHI.org.)
Two technologies—Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI)—will significantly impact supply chains.
• Blockchain (distributed ledger technology) is a continuously expanding list of records linked across a decentralized network and secured via cryptography. Within the next five years, 54% of respondents anticipate adopting it (yet 88% of them have little to no understanding of it).
• AI (machines that learn problem-solving and perform tasks that typically require human intelligence) will do decision-making, speech recognition, visual perception, and language translation. It's anticipated by 53% of respondents to effect competitive advantage or industry disruption.
These two technologies alone will directly address what supply chain leaders say are their top two operational challenges: increasing customer demands on supply chains (73%) and hiring qualified workers (64%).
Blockchain's encryption and consensus mechanisms make the data trustworthy and safe, as each trading partner is assigned a unique access key. It also lets trading partners track and trace products with pinpoint accuracy. Product recalls can be addressed quickly and discreetly—minimizing brand damage, costs, and customer inconvenience. This would alleviate some supply chain partners' fears of cyberattacks due to customers' growing demand for transparency.
Survey respondents also say the top skills needed are strategic problem solving (49%) and analytics/modeling/ visualization (43%). Front line warehouse workers are also scarce. Thus companies expect more automation. In the next five years 73% say they will adopt robotics and automation while 47% will embrace AI to handle a wide variety of continuously changing products. Administratively, AI helps automate verification, analysis, simulation, and forecasting processes, reducing the need for people with those skillsets.
Want more examples? At ProMat 2019, MHI will debut a new Solutions Center for Emerging Technologies. This area of the show floor assembles suppliers of NextGen innovations: robotics, sensors, augmented reality wearables, automated storage and retrieval systems, self-guided and autonomous vehicles, driverless trucks, drones, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and predictive analytics.
The largest international manufacturing and supply chain event in North and South America, ProMat runs April 8-11, 2019 in McCormick Place in Chicago. Nearly 1,000 exhibitors will showcase the latest solutions for maintaining competitiveness across the supply chain.
Please accept our invitation to attend and learn more about putting these technologies to work for you. For more information or to register, please visit ProMatShow.com.