- The internet of things (IoT)
The internet of things technology (IoT) is growing rapidly in its abilities and uses. In supply chain, it is taking over some domains and providing opportunity for connectedness, which can be capitalized by players. For instance, connected “things” such as finished goods, containers and vehicles can communicate information and offer insights, that will enhance traditional supply chain practices. IoT is useful in supply chain in preventive maintenance, sourcing, manufacturing, managing demands, and in logistics where it improves asset utilization, allows improvement of uptime and enables vehicles and other equipment to be managed accordingly as per the information provided. The connectedness of devices is also useful in freight fleet management, in addition to allowing critical information such as weather conditions, and traffic patterns to be collected and reported for effective decision-making.
- Robotic process automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enables supply chain companies to cut costs, reduce errors, link applications and speed up processes. Robots helps supply chain companies move materials around the warehouse and reduces cost of operations by automating tasks that were for long done by humans such as picking and packing heavy loads. With the advancement of AI and machine learning, and the entry of IoT to the world of technology, precision and mobility of robots has been enhanced, while safety has also been improved substantially. These robots can work alongside humans as opposed to taking away all jobs.
Decentralization is one of the topics that are slowly gaining momentum in supply chain circles. It promises to decentralize operations while equally allowing functions such as smart contracts, traceability and authentication. Although the implementation of this technology is in early stages in supply chain, some pilot projects, such as the one being used in the movement of diamonds from mining to the retailers has proven to be a source of competitive advantage. Because of immutability in blockchain, no record can be erased and therefore records are always secure and can be accessed only by those who are permitted to access.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
AI has the potential to change supply chain processes for the better. It has the ability to improve and automate tasks and even decision-making, that will enable businesses to reinvent themselves, with regard to the mode of operations. The potential of AI and machine learning algorithms can go as deep as helping robots perform tasks in a better manner and also improve prediction of future trends in the market. This will allow companies to plan well for the future. Combining AI and machine learning with advanced prescriptive capabilities will create enhanced supply chain customer experience and speed up processes.
- 3D printing
Over the years, there has been an increase in demand for personalized products coupled with the rising demand for faster delivery of items that has seen the need for localized production. 3D printing is a promising solution to these challenges. Thanks to the advancement in the 3D technology, production can be decentralized, that allows products to be designed in different parts based on the customer preferences and produced. Bringing production closer to the customer reduces logistics and transport costs while also cutting on tariffs.