New technologies should help different areas of the supply chain and make the decision making processes more efficient, facilitating real-time access to data on supply and demand.
Today our model of society is immersed in a process of permanent transformation, better known as the fourth industrial (r)evolution or Industry 4.0. A technological revolution that affects all levels of life and whose reality does not escape the logistics sector.
According to data of the study ‘Digital Supply Chain Management 2020 Vision’, published by SAP, close to 90% of the CEOs believe that the digital economy will be a factor of great influence in the logistics industry. However, only a quarter of those have drawn up a plan to successfully undertake their digital transformation.
Some data that reflect that this transition has already become one of the main challenges faced by logistics companies. As a result, factors such as the management of an unprecedented volume of information (‘Big Data’), the definition of information systems that serve as support for operations, the implementation of advanced planning and operational execution technologies, technological integration, robotization, intelligent transport systems and autonomous vehicles or 3D printing, among others, have become part of the operators’ agenda, who are fully aware of the possibilities they offer.
These new technologies should help various areas of the supply chain and help make decision-making processes more efficient. A good example of this is ‘demand management’, which, complemented with a better understanding of customer demand patterns, allows to optimize stocks and thus reduce errors. It is also possible to optimize the maintenance processes through better ‘insights’ on the functionality of the equipment.
Although recent, the supply chain is in a permanent (r)evolution in which supply and demand data is being made accessible to the entire network in real time: stock with a critical raw material deficit, the closure of an important infrastructure, a sudden increase in customer demand. An increase in visibility that allows both suppliers and customers to have prevention plans against potential crises. Thus, in addition to reacting better to problems, actors in the chain can anticipate them and shape the supply chain to respond to different contexts.
But to implement changes of this dimension it is necessary to transform the organizational culture and prioritize issues meet the new digital acumen that the organization adopts. It is the case of greater transparency, and consequently, of greater efficiency. When there is a clear exchange of information between all the participants, more information is required about the real arrival times, which normally is linked to planning.
A constant and reliable update can significantly improve the satisfaction of the client, the final consumer or the company. To achieve this, it is necessary to implement new technologies and to train collaborators who can intervene in operations.
In the future, the algorithms designed will replace human work, leaving operators focus more on strategic decisions and thus increase the efficiency of the supply chain. The visibility of this chain will depend on a ‘Track and Trace’ (T & T) system that allows different players to determine the status of transport through data from suppliers, carriers, warehouses and distributors.
Improvements in distribution
The distribution can also benefit from this technological revolution. Trucks can communicate their position and time of arrival to the intelligent warehouse management system, to make it possible to immediately set storage space for delivery and assign the appropriate autonomous equipment to transfer the goods to the correct locations. Even 3D printing should be considered, since it allows to recreate some pieces that are more fragile and easily damaged, and as a result, it will no longer be necessary to replace all of the equipment required to handle the merchandise.
Finally, automation and robotics are key in the future of autonomous driving vehicles, which need more complex mapping systems and shorter-range radars. Wireless connections with other vehicles and with the road itself will provide additional information that will accelerate road traffic and reduce accidents. They will be even faster, more efficient and more reliable, since costs will be reduced, human error will be eliminated and CO2 emissions will be minimized.
The ultimate goal of a digital supply chain is to provide visibility and incorporate all the elements that make it up and, for organizations, it is essential to learn to predict possible unforeseen events in the logistics processes. For example, demand can be better anticipated with the implementation of more sophisticated systems, which translate into greater productive capacity, storage and logistics needs, as well as the request for raw materials.
The next step in its development is crucial and consists of knowing how to prescribe the way it operates. The key lies in the ability to optimize all of the factors in the chain and make the most appropriate amendments to achieve optimal results.
Source: Cadena de Suministro