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AIIoTadvanced analytics and blockchain are some of the trends driving competitive advantage for supply chains.

Olay Skin Advisor is a mobile app that relies on machine-learning algorithms  to analyze skin care needs. The app performs a facial analysis from a  consumer’s no-makeup selfie and recommends products based on personal  data and best practices from skin care experts. The artificial intelligence  (AI)-enabled app also collects buying behavior data directly from the  consumer and uses that data to determine the demand for and recommend  specific products.

“Supply chain leaders  must assess their company’s risk culture to determine their readiness to  explore and adopt emerging offerings”

Similarly, FlavorPrint, an AI-based platform introduced by McCormick  spinoff Vivanda, determines what is called a “flavor DNA” — a digital  taste identifier that matches consumers to food items. Through this  direct customer engagement, FlavorPrint is sensing demand by better  understanding customer preference. Furthermore, it can make this  information available to the extended supply chain — suppliers, food manufacturers, content publishers — for better demand response and creation.

These are examples of how AI, a top trend impacting supply chains in 2018, can significantly improve a supply chain’s ability to sense and shape demand.

With the emergence of disruptive supply chain technologies  like AI, supply chain leaders must determine the implications of those  trends to enable the future of supply chain and operations.

“Supply chain leaders must assess their company’s risk culture to  determine their readiness to explore and adopt emerging offerings,”  advises Christian Titze,  research director at Gartner. “If in doubt, consider piloting small  projects to determine whether the potential benefit of the technology  trend is worth the risk and required investment in new skills,  capabilities and services.”

Gartner has identified eight strategic technology trends for supply chain and how they can provide a competitive advantage.

Artificial intelligence

AI carries great potential to revolutionize supply chain processes. The ability to apply AI to enhance, and even automate, decision making,  reinvent business models and ecosystems, and remake the customer  experience could make many other emerging technology trends redundant.  However, although current AI solutions  can find patterns and predict future scenarios, they still lack  decision-making abilities. Combining pattern capabilities with more  advanced prescriptive capabilities will therefore be critical to  widespread supply chain uptake, enabling users to dedicate their skills  to higher-order use cases such as strategic network design or capacity  planning.

Advanced analytics

Advanced analytics  enable companies to proactively take advantage of future opportunities  and mitigate future adverse events. Prescriptive analytics can improve  decision making in functional areas like supply chain planning,  sourcing, and logistics and transportation, and can be deployed to  improve end-to-end supply chain performance. Processes that previously  relied on human judgment can be powered with predictive and prescriptive  analytics that could have a significant impact on future demands for  supply chain talent.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

Adoption of the IoT  is growing in select supply chain domains, but rarely as part of a  complete end-to-end supply chain process. One exception is the air and  defense industry, where airplanes have thousands of sensors and data is  leveraged in the extended supply chain. Other potentially impactful supply chain use cases  are in preventative maintenance, sourcing, manufacturing, logistics,  demand management and services. These include improved asset  utilization, higher uptime through remote monitoring and maintenance,  improved customer service by better understanding customer behavior and  needs, and proactively responding to and shaping customer demand.

Intelligent things

Current supply chain use cases for intelligent things — such as autonomous mobile robots and autonomous vehicles  — are mainly targeted at defined scenarios and controlled environments,  such as in warehouses. Intelligent things will make their initial  business impact across a wide spectrum of asset-centric, product-centric  and service-centric industries. As a result, the ability for  organizations to assist, replace or redeploy their human workers in more  value-adding activities will potentially create high, even  transformational, business benefits.

Conversational systems

Conversational systems — most recognizably implemented today in virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and chatbots  — are taking interaction to the next level with the addition of  conversational commerce. Not only can they handle discovery questions  and offer solutions without any human agent involvement, conversational  systems can enable transactions, handle payments, ensure delivery and  provide customer service.

Robotic process automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) allows supply chain leaders to cut  costs, eliminate keying errors, speed up processes and link  applications. For example, an organization may want to work with  structured data to automate an existing manual task or process with  minimal process re-engineering or to avoid major system integration  projects or specific new major application deployments.

Immersive technologies

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality  (AR) allow supply chain businesses to enhance employee and customer  digital experiences. Gartner estimates VR will reach mainstream adoption  in the next two to five years, with AR going mainstream in the next  five to 10 years, but these technologies are already in use in a variety  of industries. These include enhanced repair and maintenance  capabilities in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing and better  purchasing choices for customers leveraging product visualization or  store layout and planning.

Blockchain

Certain highly decentralized supply chain management functions such  as smart contracts or traceability and authentication are prime  candidates for blockchain. Multiple business use cases are yet to be proven, but some early pilot projects have emerged that are experimenting with the potential of blockchain for supply chain.  For example, blockchain is being used to track the movement of diamonds  from mining to retail stores by developing a digital record that  includes the unique attributes, including color, carat and certificate  number that can be inscribed by laser into the stone.

 

 

 

Original Article published by Christy Pettey at Gardner / 2018

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