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Digital Transformation in the Supply Chain Featured

The consumer world seems overwhelmingly digital. From smartphones and smartwatches to IoT devices like thermostats and Amazon Alexa we’re constantly and instantly connected. But what about the supply chain? Is every order initiated by an automated function and passed along at light speed to the manufacturer who instructs their robots to build the order and put it on a pallet?

Digital transformation is more than connecting machines and computers, and even if that were all there was to it, the supply chain is far from digitally complete. It’s the ‘transformation’ part of the phrase that needs a closer look because even though many of the electronic components needed are available they are not necessarily being leveraged in transformative ways.

The transformation

Transformation is a combination of technology and thought process. There are so many different technologies that can be applied to supply chain operations that no one enterprise can possibly implement all of them. However any company with a dedication to shortening the distance between their customer and their manufacturing process has the opportunity to find those technologies that fill specific functions and put them into service.

Those companies that have already changed their operations by transforming them digitally will also admit they are not done. That’s because the process is not a start/end kind of venture. Digital transformation is a way of thinking and a process.

Digital transformation tools

Here are a few of the tools and technologies that are being put to use in the supply chain. Which of them might be useful in changing your organization?

Customer-centricism – OK this isn’t a technology in itself and certainly isn’t a new thought. But with the end consumer already highly digital its time to look at supply chain operations and find ways to shorten the distance in both time and process between the customer and what they want.

IoT – The internet of things is already everywhere and projected to become a population of 20 billion units by 2020. An IoT device can be anything that has computer and communication capabilities. Here’s Datamation’s list of 75 IoT devices, most of which are consumer oriented. Take a look and imagine how you could use IoT capabilities to improve your supply chain.

Big data – If ever there was a source of big data, it’s the supply chain with EDI documents filling data centers and pouring into ERP systems. How are you using all that data beyond simply processing orders? What can it tell you?

Analytics – Your big data is ripe for analytics that can sift through massive amounts of data to tell you things you didn’t think you wanted to know.

3D printing – 3D printers are changing how products are developed, tested, and manufactured. On-demand printing has moved from books to hard goods. Where are you missing out?

AI – Artificial intelligence or machine learning is being put to use in all kinds of ways. Services like IBM’s Watson are available as services through APIs that can be executed on demand. Explore the capabilities and how they might help with production predictions.

Robotics – Robotics include autonomous delivery vehicles as well as the arms that build cars.

Bots – Bots are products of AI and can carry on conversations via text and even by voice. How is your customer service being handled? Does every call still go through a IVR menu? Bots are changing how customers interact with customer service centers and making everyone happy by saving money and answering questions fast.

Social media – It’s still around but the demographics are changing. Is Facebook still delivering results? Does Twitter reach your audience better? Is Snapchat a good platform to reach your customers and prospects?

Real time response and action – Customers are judging companies by how and how quickly they answer their questions. What technologies can you put to use to deliver your customers’ demands and make them smile?

There are lots more technologies and processes coming to light every day. Stay tuned for our exploration into what’s here and what’s coming.

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