Digital future

From the June 2021 print edition

A crisis has a way of speeding up advances in various fields of human endeavour. Steps forward in medicine, for example, often arise during wartimes. The anesthesia inhaler, advances in facial reconstructive surgery and life-saving amputations are all innovations attributed to the American Civil War’s battlefield surgeons.

While in some ways less dramatic, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology and the ways in which it can advance supply chains.
Indeed, the adoption rates among supply chain organizations are increasing for several key technologies. We can see this in the results of the 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report, released during the ProMatDX show (held virtually earlier this year).

Among the organizations surveyed in the report, 57 per cent are using cloud computing and storage, while 42 per cent employ sensors and automatic ID. Twenty-seven per cent are using IoT, 16 per cent employ artificial intelligence and 26 per cent use wearable mobile technology. Survey respondents said they believe these innovations can not only disrupt supply chains, but also create competitive advantage for the organizations that use them (see our ProMatDX story on page 22).

Across most businesses, technology has become even more central
to day-to-day operations over the past 15 months. Whether through e-commerce, Zoom meetings or even ordering a pizza, almost all of our daily interactions rely on the digital world.

This reliance will remain and likely increase even as the pandemic fades.
While supply chains have struggled over the pandemic’s course, customer expectations remain intact. Organizations will need technology to keep up with what clients want. To fall behind can mean disaster.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of supply chain visibility, an area technology seems ideal to address. Adopting technology to increase visibility can help to track goods and devise contingency plans if delays arise.

Finally, technology can help to provide a view into the future. Predictive analytics can help to spot risks and plan for them, something that’s been more on the radar of supply chain professionals over the past 16 months. Our article on page 13 looks at how technologies like machine learning and AI can help companies make better, faster predictions.

And as several experts note in our article on page 8, ensure technology will solve the business challenges you face, rather than digitizing simply because it’s the trendy thing to do. It’s more important than ever to adopt the technology that will advance your goals. After all, who knows what challenges the future holds?

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.