Staying abreast of technology in the supply chain industry

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." - Bill Gates

Technology continues to change the rules

Technology is the biggest and most powerful change in business, and has been for the last 10 years. Technology will continue to be the biggest change in supply chain management and logistics. However, without the right people, the right strategy and the right processes in place, technology will only highlight the weaknesses in a supply chain and logistics system.

Technology drives productivity by digitising processes such as finance and general business methods, as well as organisational collaboration. Digital communities created within an organisation result in sets of partners across the business executing coordinated processes.

Simply adding some digital enhancements is not the answer, creating a truly digital, technology-focussed supply chain and logistics solution is part of an entire strategy and digital revolution! Implementing technology within the supply chain creates a new dynamic – one that is scalable, connected and rapid.

Technology has certainly empowered the customer. Your customers have the ability to make orders, payments, return and review goods and services with a few clicks of a button, wherever they are. Yet, that same digital power is also available to retailers, manufacturers and distributors.


Then there is the 'wow' stuff

Two of the most powerful new technologies in digital manufacturing are the use of augmented and virtual realities.

Digital manufacturing has gone from gasping at the 'future' and the idea of 3D printing, to racing its way from awkward prototypes to being able to function using materials such as human cartilage and titanium. The 3D printing or 'additive' manufacturing capability now includes complex mechanisms, and is evolving to allow larger components, higher speeds and lower costs. A winning formula in any process.

Augmented reality involves the layering of the real, physical world with some simulated reality, in order to improve efficiencies in the real world, such as a pair of 'smart' glasses used in a warehouse to assist in quicker identification of a correct product, for example.

Virtual reality, as the words suggest, is when an entire experience is created in a virtual space, customers would be able to visualise and make their own design changes in real time via technology, experience their design choices and purchase, with immediate fulfilment of the order.

So, do these technologies fit into your business? Is there an opportunity to investigate how they could be part of an improved business model for you? While it is absolutely worth knowing more about, understanding and investigating these new technologies, they might not be right for you.


Nothing beats a strong foundation

So, as the Bill Gates quote at the beginning of this article predicts, there is no possibility of losing sight of the basics. No amount of digital sleuth and process arrangement can keep sight of the economy, labour issues and global markets as an insightful, experienced human team. Technology alone cannot predict and respond to the market.

The current emerging trends in the marketplace hold pitfalls for those not prepared to adapt and respond in an agile manner. The same trends also hold great opportunity – such as a chance to reduce costs and carbon footprints, as well as opportunities for increased customer service.

As always, a balanced view is key

The key is to maintain a level head, an enquiring mind and the wisdom to know the difference between being left behind and buying in to unnecessary hype! This is where having the right supply chain professionals or teams with the rights skills comes in handy. Your supply chain experts in-house should be able to advise and guide you regarding the latest supply chain technology. The future of your business will depend on ensuring that the people around you are thinking in innovative ways that will open opportunities and bring the right technologies in at the right time.

If you are looking for supply chain, procurement, logistics, industrial engineering, demand planning, consulting or senior supply chain innovators, who can help you get this balance right, why not get in contact with the leaders in the industry, Tech-Pro. We understand the industry through our specialisation, and go the extra mile to match innovative candidates with forward-thinking employers. Contact us on 011 514 0463 or simply fill in our contact form.