Digital integration

From the February 2023 print edition

If you’ve had your fill of uncertainty over the past three years, as I have, it’s not particularly fun to mention that we’re likely in for more. Supply chain disruptions, workforce shortages, geopolitical strife, rising interest rates and other factors all but guarantee our collective crystal balls will remain cloudy for a while yet.

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.

There’s a need to use any advantage we can against this uncertainty. That means, those who haven’t already begun doing so should work towards digital transformation.

Data is more important to supply chains than it’s ever been. You’re likely going to need even more data going forward. At the very least, you’ll need visibility into the data you already have access to.

It’s supply networks, not supply chains, that will power organizations going forward. That will mean access to data, protection from cyberattacks, and digital integration across an organization will be more important than ever.

We all need to be sure that data can flow across our organizations and their systems seamlessly, so that all operations run as smoothly as possible. An increasingly and continuously interconnected world means the need for interconnected data.

In fact, a recent whitepaper by IDC notes that this sort of digital integration can help to create a competitive advantage for organizations that engage in it. According to the whitepaper, 80 per cent of respondents noted levels of improvement – including the cost of handling and sharing information, staffing efficiencies, and KPI improvements – after automating a range of collaboration documents.

Digital integration can help to harness the potential of technological innovations like data analysis, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and others.

As another example, artificial intelligence (AI) used in supply chain can act as a tool to increase visibility, track sustainability, and increase cybersecurity and worker safety. Online shopping giant Amazon, for example, is using AI to recommend products to online shoppers, predict consumer demand, and optimize delivery routes, among other uses. Natural language processing allows warehouse workers to voice-pick.

This keeps their hands free, thus making their jobs safer. We take a look at the various ways in which supply chains are using AI in our article on page 18.

In this issue, we also look at how digitally integrated inventory management can increase efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain, for example by helping to foresee future demand, prevent shortages or excess inventory and so on. You can check out our inventory management article on page 16.
Whatever the status quo is now, it’s bound to change at some point. That means, whatever the industry, digital integration and adapting technology can help operations run smoothly.