By Sam Mire

Supply chains are extremely dependent on efficiency. Getting items where they need to be, on time, while minimizing product loss is the name of the game. On the flipside, many of the latest, most-hyped technologies promise to deliver greater efficiency. Pairing new tech and supply chains is a match made perfectly for the globalized economy.
Do you care to know which technologies will transform supply chain management as we know it? Here’s what these industry insiders have to say about that:

1. Bill Leedale, Senior Advisor, IFS
“Certainly, additive manufacturing will have an impact on the supply chain management industry as individual organizations identify where and when it is commercially viable. Technologies like operational intelligence, and even data analytics that make it easier for executives to visualize and act on data, will continue to see a lot of investment. The impact of blockchain will, for now, be concentrated in industries with highly traceable materials like pharmaceuticals, food and defense.”

2. Karrie Sullivan, Principal at Culminate Strategy Group
“Supply chain management will be disrupted broadly by the versatility and middleman busting capability of blockchain with a (hefty) assist from machine learning.
Blockchain doesn’t scale well and has to be limited in scope but works nicely to track provenance, secure transactions, & create secure commerce “hubs”. When combined with Machine Learning we create scale, transaction audit capability, continuous improvement, predictability, and reduce the need for human intervention (autonomy). We reduce the number of touches that create friction within supply chains by removing unnecessary middlemen and replacing workflow-based systems with the flexibility of cognitive automation.”

3. Marcin Fic, Vice President, Supply Chain Solutions at Flex
“Advancements in data analytics and IoT will have the biggest impact on supply chain management. The ability to utilize data and analytics to identify and monitor risk allows for efficient and optimized operations throughout the entire supply chain. Companies are increasingly turning to digitized solutions to streamline their management, tracking and modeling. Another technology to consider is 3D printing which is on the minds of many; proven by a recent Gartner study that indicates 47 percent of supply chain managers plan to implement 3D printing in the next couple years. 3DP will help to reduce risks and costs, improve production times and quality and ultimately enable rapid prototyping.
A real world example of the new supply chain is a technology solution at Flex called Pulse, which aggregates and interprets live streaming data from multiple sources around the world. This provides the company with insight into global variables that may impact or disrupt supply chains—including demand changes, materials availability, tariffs, labor costs and material costs— so the organization can facilitate contingency planning in order to improve service levels, save money and reduce downtime.”

4. Andy Borchers DBA,  Professor and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Lipscomb University
“One technology that has a potentially big impact are autonomous vehicles.  Trucking firms in the US are facing a shortage of drivers.  Autonomous vehicles are likely to move from the testing stage today to full implementation in the next few years.  There have been significant efforts by truck makers and trucking firms to pilot autonomous vehicles.  The earliest routes will be long haul routes in the US west where one driver cannot do the job without relief.”

5. Pervinder Johar, CEO of Blume Global

“AI and machine learning will become more integrated within every aspect of the supply chain. This integration will automate repetitive tasks and bring intelligence to supply chain networks and systems. Artificial intelligence  and machine learning are both required to take full advantage of Natural Language Processing. The complexity of human language requires smart algorithms and self-teaching systems to parse and understand language input and provide appropriate responses and actions. NLP provides many benefits to the supply chain that includes understanding and mitigating potential risks with supply chain stakeholders, ensuring compliance, monitoring reputations of supply chain organizations, and reducing language barriers.”

6. Dave Weidner, Senior director, Pelion Market Development, Arm
“Digital transformation rooted in IoT is having the biggest impact on the supply chain management industry as it is enabling organizations to securely obtain end-to-end supply chain visibility and garner real-time actionable data insights to meet their customers’ On-Time, In-Full (OTIF) mandates. For example, IoT offers the ability to track assets in real-time throughout the journey, providing valuable details such as location, condition, predictive ETA and reducing barcode scans. Additionally, by combining this fresh IoT data with AI, organizations can optimize operations and predict capacity availability in real-time.”

7. Colin Hayward, CEO of Chinsay
“The technology, broadly speaking, to have the biggest impact on the industry will be automation. Organisations, both big and small, are looking for ways to automate processes and data, eliminating unnecessary and often error-prone manual work. For the commodity markets, errors at any step of the supply chain can be catastrophic, as companies already operate within razor-thin profit margins.
Automation will solve many problems for the industry and will make operations more effective and accurate based on proprietary data, and enable collaboration between parties otherwise siloed.”

8. Manav Garg , CEO and Founder of Eka Software
“Without a doubt, the technology that will have the biggest impact on supply chain management will be blockchain. Its powers of increasing efficiency through the automation of transactions and transparency are something the industry needs in order to increase performance. Blockchain, when applied to supply chain, has cost-saving advantages, achievable through seamless tracking, planning, and execution of trades.”

9. Rob DeStefano, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Ivanti Supply Chain
“Future supply chains will be all about automation. With demands for faster delivery, supply chain organizations will seek out every opportunity to speed processes using code, robotics, and all the regular hot-topic tech we read about every day. But where it’s already happening is in the applications running in today’s warehouses. Looking at existing tasks and finding ways to eliminate redundancies, simplify procedures with scripting delivers big time savings for businesses as workers navigate tasks faster. Plus, simplified tasks are easier to learn. The benefits automation delivers now fund the future automation of robotics, drones and all that fun futuristic tech.”

10. Charlie Wilgus, General Manager, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Executive, Lucas Group
“I’m most intrigued by the emergence of what’s been referred to as a “touch free” end-to-end supply chain. This seems rather simple in theory, but it’s the idea that true lean and efficient supply chains can only come when every touch point throughout the supply chain process is automated and devoid of human handling. This assumes that human error would not be a factor and there would be no redundancies, waste or costly delays – essentially we are talking about a “supply chain utopia” where all available technologies come together to create an orchestra of supply chain automation that is not only cost effective but predictable and extremely efficient. There is still a lot to be sorted out in this regard and only time will tell if this is truly possible throughout the industry, but it’s certainly a trend worth following.”

11. Madhav Durbha, Ph.D., Group Vice President, Industry Strategy at LLamasoft
“Innovative digital decisioning platforms powered by cloud computing, increasingly sophisticated algorithms and hyper-personalized user experience will deliver unprecedented visibility and speed of decisioning. Such platforms will allow for business users with no coding experience to build “microapps’ at enterprise scale and with consumer grade ease. Rather than ripping and replacing existing systems, these platforms will help drive significant innovation and differentiation around existing infrastructure– and the “microapps” will fill key gaps in existing portfolio of systems, thus enabling interconnected decisioning at the speed of business.”