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Emerging Technologies from 2020 to Bring into 2021 for Supply Chain


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new level of uncertainties in the global supply chain. Naturally, the future is always uncertain. But never has the supply chain industry witnessed the level of unease it faces today. However, the only area that seems certain is the relevance of emerging technologies in the post-COVID-19 era. Therefore, your company must adopt a mindset that embraces emerging supply chain technologies. This will help you combat the pandemics effects and prepare for long-term, perpetual change.


Now more than ever, it is quite clear that the benefits of digitization to the supply chain brings about effective supply chain operating models that can help you gain a competitive advantage and achieve long term value. Let's look at the top six emerging supply chain technologies to help you re-valuate your supply chain strategy, process, and performance. 


Top Six Emerging Technologies to Utilize in 2021


1. Robotic Automation

A report in 2019, showed that companies in the US and North America spent over $898 million on robotic automation. Future estimates suggest warehouse robotics alone will reach a market value of about $22.4 billion by 2021. Supply chain automation is not just limited to repetitive manual tasks, but entire operations. Within warehouses, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are being used for labor-intensive tasks. On the side of transportation, drones are already in use for transporting light-weight goods. In the future, we can also expet driverless vehicles. All these serve to streamline logistics operations, leading to higher efficiency and productivity. They also play a vital role in supply chain management. Robots free up human resources to focus on making strategic decisions. 


2. Blockchain 


Although Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have been around for some time, it is still new in the supply chain industry. However, research shows that blockchain adoption in the food and beverage industry along can save $31 billion by 2024. This is because Blockchain can add a great deal of visibility in many aspects of the supply chain. Furthermore, its decentralized advantage can aid transparency, which is currently a problem with data sharing in the supply chain. Overall, Blockchain provides an immutable, incorruptible, and more secure platform for sharing data between concerned parties.


3. End-to-End Internet of Things (IoT) 


More businesses are using IoT devices, with market growth expected to reach 13.6% by 2022. IoTs enable organizations to automate stock reordering, track deliveries, and monitor inventory in real-time. IoT devices come with sensors that can also predict the wear and tear of machinery, making it easier to schedule maintenance at the right rime. Furthermore, GPS sensors can be fitted into vehicles to offer live location tracking. Overall, IoTs enable complete visibility and transparency in supply chains. In turn, it allows organizations to respond proactively to downtime, customer demands, and boost efficiency.


4. Supply Chain as a Service (SCaaS) 


Before now, many businesses handle their supply chain activities internally. However, with SCaas, they can leverage a smarter and sustainable way to optimize their supply chain. They can now outsource not just the shipping aspect of their supply chain activities but also inventory management, packing, and logistics. That way, they can leverage the advantage of smaller, highly skilled supply chain management teams for strategic decision making. SCaaS models also come with the convenience of being able to pay for only what you need. Therefore, companies can eliminate the high costs of perpetual upgrades, system maintenance, and infrastructure-related costs. 


5. AI and Machine Learning


Already, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have introduced new and effective processes to the supply chain. AI is the main propellant for automation in the supply chain industry. AI algorithms perform basic and repetitive tasks automatically. In 2019, over 37% of organizations implemented AI. Businesses using AI technology in their supply chain are already experiencing improvements in supplier selection, workforce productivity, and inventory management. It is also a driving force in their ability to deliver a delightful experience to their customers. In the future, AI has the potentials to drive useful insights that can ben used to forecast demand accurately and proactively prepare for unexpected changes. 


6. Big Data, Predictive and Prescriptive Supply Chain Analytics 


Companies already have access to enormous stores of data. Therefore, Big Data and predictive supply chain analytics enable companies to leverage historical data to make predictions. But they still have a critical flaw; the degree of accurate information for making informed decisions is still failing. Therefore, with the emergence of prescriptive supply chain analytics, companies can make more strategic and proactive decisions. In 2019, Garner predicted that prescriptive analytics growth would reach 20.6% by 2022. But recent estimates suggest over 26.6 % by 2026 with a market value of $12.35 billion. 


Key Takeaways


Perhaps one of the pandemic's greatest disruptions is the many gaps and vulnerabilities brought to the limelight about lean supply chain models. Therefore, companies must optimize their supply chains to be agile, flexible, and responsive. When a supply chain is flexible and agile enough, it can absorb shocks, no matter how minor or major. Already companies are making the switch from off-shore supply models to local or near-shoring. However, flexibility is only achieved with transparency and better predictions. This is why these emerging supply chain technologies can enable your organization to deal with whatever comes your way in the future. Overall, AI, Blockchain, and prescriptive supply chain analytics can help you achieve smarter, faster, sustainable, and customer centric processes. Therefore, it is important to stay aware and ahead of supply chain trends to gain the edge over your competition and minimize supply chain disruptions. 


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