Good supply chain managers embrace change. We live in a time where artificial intelligence, cutting-edge software, and innovation set trends and create new standards that achieve astounding results.
Consider the products we take for granted in everyday life. A cup of coffee from Colombia in a mug from Sweden, a smartphone from China with software from the US, an Italian leather jacket from a department store a short drive away. From raw materials to the finished products in your home, the supply chains that make this possible are highly strategic.
This year brought certain logistics into focus. With the temporary closure of factories, a slowing down of supplies, and no stores to offload products, e-commerce stepped into the limelight, saving the day.
Supply chain management and ERP
A key part of supply chain management is the software that handles resource planning for businesses. This is generally known as Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP for short. It works by storing data in a single database, enabling everyone to work with the same information.
With ERP software, data can be organized, analyzed, and made into reports, and it combines inventories, financials, customer data, product lifecycle management, general supply chain functions, and human resources in one comprehensive system. In fact, supply chain management is one of the biggest components of an ERP suite.
Although ERP is commonly used by companies working within the supply chain to help keep track of all the moving parts it can also be used by a number of other industries including healthcare, nonprofit groups, construction, and the hospitality industry.
Besides ERP software, and innovation in general, other technologies are stepping up to the plate. Predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), robotics, and autonomous vehicles are all gaining popularity to manage risk and keep the process and the products sustainable.
In an age where transparency, traceability, quality, and safety are core elements of large-scale operations, sensors on perishables monitor the temperature during transit. Predictive analytics aided by artificial intelligence can not only predict but solve problems on the fly.
In terms of finance management, blockchain ledgers now mean that the accuracy and ownership of documents is perfectly preserved and does not get confused in the global journey of all the moving parts of the finished product. It has also improved traceability.
Another up and coming technology for managing risk, data, and efficiency, used is digital twins. A digital twin is essentially a digital representation of the thing, person, or process, to manage data and maintenance of expensive equipment. In addition, they can enhance product data management, making it more useful to the supply chain process.
It’s a rare thing now to have a completely self-sufficient, autonomous country. Import-export and global interdependence are part of 21st century reality, no matter where you are. This became especially evident this year when food supply chain disruptions this year meant that farmers and distributors had to rely on geographic diversity to share the load and ensure product availability. Natural disasters, wars, and pandemics may disrupt the supply chain, but working together as a global force makes us stronger and able to carry on.
Globalization has made sustainability, resiliency and visibility possible, and networked SCM technology is the primary means of achieving these goals.
Moving to the cloud
Finally, the future is in the cloud. Everything is digital, and many things are now also virtual. Available in several formats, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), supply chain cloud computing is the way things are moving.
Cloud computing enables companies to save on space and expense in terms of creating and maintaining in-house infrastructure. Cloud-specific spending is forecast to grow exponentially for this reason. Supply chain applications on the cloud not only offer a more seamless user experience, improved functionality, and easy access to updates, but they are more cost-effective. And that is always good news for business.