Advanced logistics technologies provide an opportunity to do more with less, improve the use of automation within the supply chain, learn from the mountain of data, and find ways to create more engaging experiences in a digital world. Plenty of newer technologies have taken the focal point, including the cloud, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and even next-generation analytics. However, understanding the ROI of these technologies remains problematic at best. Obviously, the IoT and analytics have a larger history and proof for their value, but they are worth mentioning, nonetheless. Meanwhile, the full lineup of advanced technologies has plenty of publicity, but they offer limited proof of value, says Steve Banker via Forbes. To clear the confusion, shippers need to understand what advanced logistics technology trends to expect and their impacts for the coming year.
Blockchain remains one of the most promising advanced logistics technology trends of 2020. Remember, blockchain is a distributed ledger that cannot be altered or destroyed, so it would stand to reason the technology carries a strong footprint. Unfortunately, the results just seem still hidden behind the curtain. According to Banker:
“Blockchain is said to be a strong solution for traceability or to provide payment to linked supply chain partners after their part of a chain of linked activities has been completed. We have continued to ask blockchain providers for the names of customers that are using their technology on a daily basis as part of their newly entrenched way of doing business. Blockchain providers cannot provide these references. That is a sure sign that the technology is still in the hype stage.”
It is important to also keep in mind that while the providers may not have released their users’ names, that does not amount to no one using the technology. As noted by the Blockchain Council™, consider these names:
There are plenty of use cases; the issue is with the newer companies that have arisen and claim to be the best and biggest blockchain solutions’ providers. This year, those companies will sink or swim.
The digital supply chain twin refers to the symbiotic relationship between manual supply chain processes and those that reside in cyberspace. All physical entities have a digital twin, explains Gartner, and the twin relies on historic data, including entry of real-time data, to appropriately mirror physical reality. In cyberspace, even real-time information quickly becomes historic and reflective of a time past. Thus, machine learning must step to understand what happened and how the existing systems can work to achieve a more beneficial outcome. Yes, this is the beginnings of artificial intelligence. It is also the beginnings of analytics. Instead of focusing too much on the use of machine learning right now, it is best to think about this simple fact.
The digital and physical worlds continue to merge, and machine learning will be necessary to bring the digital world to the closest proximity of our actual reality.
The fifth generation of wireless technology, 5G, promises faster download and upload speeds, and anything involving the speed of data transmission will play directly into the IoT talking points. The IoT gives shippers access to more data about product location, shipment status, delays, damage, and anything else. The volume of data is almost immeasurable, and through the IoT, shippers become more self-aware. That awareness contributes to better contract negotiations’ leverage with carriers, reduced inventory strains, improved management of operations, and better customer service through informed delivery.
Of course, more IoT-enabled devices will trigger a transcendence of the supply chain, creating the Internet of Everything and unifying supply chains, people, customers, cloud-based technologies, and everything else into one network.
The rise of the cloud signaled the end of primary on-site data storage and freight management. Businesses were no longer chained to their systems and hardware; they could leverage the cloud to unlock more space, more testing opportunities, and more innovation. The cloud also gave way to the creation of software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, putting the latest innovations in the hands of supply chain leaders.
The cloud is the ultimate way to attain scalability, flexibility, agility, responsiveness, disaster recovery solutions, and other service-based capabilities through hyperconverged architecture. Hyperconverged architecture means using the virtual frontier as the beginning, end, and stadium for all processes. Using the limitless power of the cloud, users can connect with more people and systems, making more informed decisions, and staying ahead of the latest trends and demands in the industry.
It is not quite the Robot Apocalypse, but the use of artificial intelligence is moving to become more influential and controlling in the supply chain. This is not a bad type of control. Instead, AI-guided controls will make decisions on the go, avoiding the need for human intervention, transforming exception management into “just management,” and streamlining supply chain processes. Artificial intelligence again powers the other technologies with faster, more efficient capabilities to add value.
Now, we did mention analytics at the beginning of this piece. Analytics and algorithm-based processes that comb through and generate metrics based on data, are essential to artificial intelligence. Superficially, artificial intelligence is nothing more than advanced analytics that leverage machine learning and automated controls to make the most influential choices and route transactions. It’s all a series of dynamic, ever-evolving rulesets that enable continuous improvement.
If your organization has yet to invest in any of the technologies considered to be among the advanced logistics technology trends, you are behind the learning curve. New technologies always add a layer of sophistication to maintaining your competitive advantage, and if you lack those technologies, even by a few months, your customers will inevitably go to your competitors. Know this; blockchain, machine learning, the cloud, the digital twin, analytics, and artificial intelligence are coming. They are coming to stay, and your organization must welcome them with open arms to survive.
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