December 17, 2018
December 17, 2018
Contributor: Kasey Panetta
Supply chain leaders must examine how emerging technologies such as AI, robotics and blockchain will affect their business, and decide where and how to invest.
Robots may soon become the newest coworkers in the warehouse. The vast majority of warehouse operations have relied solely on people-executed processes, but next-generation autonomous mobile robots are transforming warehouse operations. While traditional industrial robots were stuck with simple tasks, autonomous mobile robots are intelligent and can follow humans through a complex warehouse as the employee selects items for an order and can also be used to deliver goods to and from people. These collaborative robots support, not replace humans.
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Robots are just one of the technologies that supply chain leaders should be considering or investing in, according to the Gartner Supply Chain Technology User Wants and Needs Survey.
“Supply chain operations are under pressure to adopt new business models and technologies to excel in an increasingly complex and volatile world,” says C. Dwight Klappich, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “Supply chain leaders must identify where to innovate and invest in new processes and technologies to help their companies remain relevant in their markets.”
Those investing and innovating will ensure their enterprises remain competitive in the future. Gartner supply chain predictions highlight the importance of emerging technologies and where supply chain leaders are finding value.
By adding intelligence, guidance and sensory awareness, robotics have evolved from “dumb” automated guided vehicles to “intelligent and aware” autonomous mobile robots. According to the supply chain survey, 17% of respondents are already piloting robots. These mobile robots can now operate independently and around humans, making them better for complex warehouse environments. However, these robots are collaborative in nature. They are best used for moving goods around, enabling humans to continue to do things they are better at, such as tasks requiring more complex motor control.
Artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and IoT (Internet of Things) (Internet of Things) are all considered transformational or high-benefit technologies. This means they will either enable new ways of doing business across industries, resulting in major industry dynamic shifts (transformational), or enable new processes that will result in significant revenue increase or cost savings (high benefit).
Adopting these types of technologies is critical for companies to remain competitive in the future, positioning the supply chain for long-term, scalable and sustainable business growth. Each is at a different stage of maturity, but all have high potential impact, which means supply chain leaders need to examine the leading strategic supply chain technology trends. Review factors such as business impact, risk, technology intensity, culture and other potential impacts.
Blockchain remains a popular search topic on gartner.com, but supply chain leaders are failing to find suitable use cases in the industry. Only about 19% of respondents saw blockchain as a very important technology, and only about 9% have invested.
Much of this is a failure of blockchain to live up to the original exuberance about the technology’s application in supply chain management. Furthermore, supply chain leaders are struggling to figure out what blockchain offers that is better than what mature, conventional solutions provide today. Regrettably, too many existing supply-chain-focused blockchain projects are simply a reaction to intense pressure to be seen as having a blockchain competency or pressure from the C-suite.
Supply chain blockchain projects have mostly focused on these three areas: Verifying authenticity, improving traceability and visibility, and improving transactional trust. However, most have remained as pilot projects waylaid by technology immaturity, lack of standards, overly ambitious scope and a misunderstanding of how blockchain could or should actually help the supply chain.
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