The coming evolution of the digital supply chain!

The development of the digital supply chain, the comprehensive concept that cloud-based systems, analytics and monitoring of goods, vehicles and other assets via the Internet of Things will improve the flow of supply chains, is a major concern for many logistics companies today.

We know it’s coming, but how many have a clear understanding of the technology and its applications? Similar terms to digitization or Industry 4.0, digital supply chain management encompasses multiple technologies and contains its fair share of buzzwords, but how will it all work? How will the digital supply chain develop?

Digitization will clearly transform supply chains, but our understanding of how it will impact is still a work in progress. Breaking down some of the fundamental technologies should help logistics managers figure out how to embrace this new era.

Technologies like predictive analytics, better visibility into goods movements, and robotics supporting warehouses and distribution centers will all play a role in digital supply chain management.

Here are the top applications to watch out for;

Network-oriented visibility

One of the hallmarks of digital supply chains will be the ability to see and understand the activities and events of multiple actors. The transition will be from inward-looking digital supply chains, where optimization is defined internally by a company, to an end-to-end digital supply chain, where you optimize beyond the walls of a company and instead optimize across multiple key supply chain partners .

These network-centric visibility solutions will come from technology vendors using terms like global trade networks or global trade hubs to describe the cross-enterprise focus of their solution.

Merge IoT with app processes

For IoT data to become more useful in software foundations for supply chain management, software vendors need to do more to ensure sensor data can be leveraged in applications. In fact, relevant data from the IoT must be harnessed in solutions such as transportation management systems. For example, IoT-based cold chain monitoring should be able to link to shipment information.

You need to be able to attach this digital sensor data to a shipment when the shipment has left a certain protected area. Since the IoT can stream large amounts of data, it is also important that IoT platforms are able to separate relevant exceptions from the flood of data.

By embedding the correct exceptions or sensor state changes, relevant changes become part of the end-to-end process for the extended supply chain, ensuring the process proceeds with integrity.

That sounds like a mouthful of technology, but it makes sense.

Scenario-Based Planning

The IoT is great at using telematics, sensors, and geo-positioning signals from devices to determine the location and health of assets, but much of the value of the IoT will come from using that awareness to make better decisions. Ensuring the accuracy of the input data is key. What is different in this digital age is all of the awareness that can be achieved through all of the various programmed information points.

The transportation sector is already seeing a good boost with tools that, for example, monitor real-time feeds of weather and traffic data and dynamically reroute a truck if it doesn’t get from point A to point B on schedule. This is just one example of scenario-based contingency planning enabled by a technology-enabled, digital supply chain.

The new analysis and scenario planning engines might draw on some master data from traditional systems, but they will likely be different planning platforms that can ingest IoT-based information and support planning that goes beyond traditional departmental domains.

It is believed that this historical and real-time data will aid in contingency planning.

IoT, smart roads and predictive analytics

Real-time monitoring of trucks, vehicles, and goods in transit via the IoT already exists, says Timothy Leonard, executive vice president of technology at TMW Systems, and is becoming more powerful as the number and complexity of sensors and IoT infrastructure increases.

According to Leonard, a former head of technology at General Motors, the sensors on trucks and trailers are becoming smarter and better able to monitor various conditions as they become more numerous. Additionally, governments in places like Ohio, with their Smart Mobility Corridor program, are embedding fiber optic cables and sensors directly into streets to create “smart streets” that can help pinpoint congestion or weather trends.

I’m impressed with the accuracy of the GPS, which has been around for over a decade. Technology applications on the horizon are interesting.

Evolution of the Digital Supply Chain article and permission to publish here by Michael Gaughan at Originally published on Supply Chain Game Changer on May 30, 2018.

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