Supply Chain Technology Shake-ups Ahead!

We’ve discussed supply chain management quite a bit in this space, and for good reason. New supply chain technology shake-ups have already made a dramatic difference in the way companies across many industries address their logistics. But as with most technological developments, that probably understates the level of change that is really bearing down on us.

At Superior Business Solutions, we improve the print management and promotional product supply chains for our clients. We root a major part of our business success in demonstrating how our proprietary technologies bring efficiency and deliver savings to their bottom lines. And that kind of thinking is about to become more critical than ever.

Not Just Refining Logistics—Rethinking Them Entirely

The supply chain technology innovations that are emerging today, and will take hold over the next few years, require even more of a “sea change” in your business than just a few simple refinements. Companies that are slow to embrace new thinking in these areas will be left behind.

I recently noticed an item on the Product Marketing Association’s LinkedIn page that opened my eyes even further to that reality. The page featured an article that mentioned six emerging technologies that are likely to have a major impact on not only supply chain management, but on the very nature of the supply chain itself in many industries. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

  • The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) basically means that a multitude of items—from sensors at every point on a production line to chips placed in or on individual items and shipping containers of every possible type—will be able to “communicate” directly to data analysis points via the internet in real time.

This supply chain technology would deliver a previously unattainable level of accuracy in tracking inventory, resource shipments, fulfillment and delivery activities, and many more operations. The incredible resulting efficiency could eliminate a great deal of estimating, projecting and inventory-taking and the costs associated with those things. Virtually every segment of manufacturing and order-fulfillment systems would become “just in time” processes as the “price of entry.”

  • 3-D Printing

Another technology that holds great importance for supply chain management is 3-D printing. The ability to generate finished products, component assemblies and other deliverables by simply manufacturing them as “one-offs” or in small quantities as needed could change the landscape significantly.

If tools, components, sub-assemblies and other things can be created as needed why maintain an inventory or orchestrate an elaborate supply chain protocol that may involve many suppliers and materials from multiple sources? Advances in 3-D printing could logically result in the elimination of a production line or sequence, with the entire manufacturing process condensed into a single step.

  • Self-driving Vehicles

While most of the news has revolved around self-driving cars, the benefits of extending this technology to trucks and other vehicles are rather obvious. Think of the implications for shipping and cargo operations if trucks could run 24 hours per day, without being subject to the availability of human drivers and the driving time limits they must observe.

Beyond over-the-road applications, self-driving vehicles could provide remarkable efficiencies within a manufacturing or warehousing facility. Inventory-replenishment or order-fulfillment systems that require no human drivers could see reduced costs and streamlined operations.

  • Other Technologies

The article mentions several other developing technologies that will impact supply chain management in different ways. One is in the area of “collaborative robotics.” The newest generations of robots are far from the industrial production-line mechanisms we have all seen in videos and commercials. Collaborative robots are smaller, lighter and more versatile, capable of doing many more jobs, and working side-by-side with human co-workers. They can be programmed as needed to perform multiple logistics-related functions such as loading and unloading, inventory management and more.

The final two supply chain innovations mentioned in the article involve new delivery concepts. One looks to “Uber” for its inspiration, enlisting pools of private drivers who respond, via an app, to handle same-day delivery requests promptly. The other you’re certainly aware of – drones, and their increasing ability to play a real role in product delivery. Legal issues are gradually being overcome, and within a few years, drone delivery to central pickup points, if not individual homes, will be common.

We’ll Help You Get Ready

Changes are clearly in the works for the way most companies manage their supply chains. For some, it will be enhancements that add efficiency and save money. For others, it will require re-imagining the very ways that pieces and parts become products and get to their end customers. Wherever your business lies along that spectrum, we are, as always, here to help.

I look forward to discussing the potential implications of these developments for your business. Contact me here, and we can have a conversation about how our technologies can make your supply chains for print management and promotional products more efficient.

Our sales reps also have extensive expertise in recognizing opportunities to save you time and money in your supply chain, so give them a call. You don’t have to know everything about supply chain technology. You just have to align yourself with people who do.

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