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Supply Chain: What’s Next?

Supply-chain weaknesses have come into the spotlight in recent years, but with this we also have big opportunities for new innovations to create true transformation. As this happens, we will need people, process, and technology to work in tandem to ensure smooth and successful implementation of supply-chain technologies.

To proceed, we must take into consideration the most significant trends for our supply chain. Perhaps the notable is that man and machine must continue work side-by-side closely, enabling new efficiencies and faster decision making. Of course, this is only the beginning. Gartner suggests there are eight remarkable trends to watch when it comes to supply-chain technology in 2024. Let’s explore what we can expect from each of these trends.

Cyber extortion. The bad guys are out there, and they know supply-chain organizations are a weak link. In the rest of 2024, we can surmise these nefarious characters to be very effective at executing ransomware attacks to extort funds. Sadly, as that might be for all of us to ponder. If Change Healthcare succumbed to paying the ransom, supply-chain organizations are just as vulnerable. Perhaps the best advice in any scenario here is companies must do whatever is possible to prepare and that means coming up with ransomware attack scenarios.

Supply-chain data governance. We are seeing the rise of advanced analytics and AI (artificial intelligence) techniques, which is enabling greater visibility and better decision-making. Still, as this happens, companies will need to ensure a high level of data quality and governance process. This will be essential. People, process, and technology will be critical to everyday success. We can’t forget the process.

Sustainable supply chain. This next one doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Sustainability will be king. It is something I wrote about in my book Sustainable in a Circular World and it is something I continue to write about right here on this blog. If you haven’t read my book, I encourage you to. It goes back to the basics. We must consider the basics before we can move forward. We are seeing the rise of sustainability-related legislation, which is driving a shift. This will drive end-to-end sustainable supply chains in the months ahead.

AI-enabled vision systems. We know AI (artificial intelligence) is impacting nearly every facet of life and work. One novel example is vision systems, which combine 3D cameras, computer vision software, and advanced AI pattern recognition technology. The technology can make inferences based on unstructured images the vision systems see in realtime. Imagine the opportunities in the supply chain!

Augmented connected workforce. This cannot be stressed enough; we need to keep workers front and center. Here we see augmented connected workforce initiatives can reduce the time required after onboarding an employee to become fully productive and improve decision-making. This optimizes technology, workforce analytics, and skills augmentation. This will certainly be a trend to watch.

Composite AI. AI is king these days and what will come next is a combination of multiple AI techniques. Together, they could improve efficiency, provide new information, or address any key challenge in the supply chain. In the future, a combination of techniques will likely make more sense than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Next-generation humanoid working robots. For years, we have talked about how robotics will play a big role in supply chains and logistics in the future. That time has come. The next generation of robots will have sensory awareness with mobile manipulation and dynamic locomotion. They will typically imitate the human body as well, leading to man and machine working together more closely than ever before.

Machine customers. Finally, we will see the rise of nonhuman economic actors that autonomously obtain goods or services in exchange for payment. This could be assets that place orders independently or replenishment algorithms that maintain availability of consumables, or intelligent assistants that suggest deals to consumers. The future is machines—and we must be prepared for it.

The world around us is changing very quickly and how we tap into the digital transformation will determine our success with people, process, and technology. We truly live in exciting times. “And with great technology, comes great responsibility.”

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