Technology Trends to Streamline Supply Chain Management

Digital transformation of the supply chain and its integration across the distribution channel has been debated for years. The consistent evolution in supply chain management systems and integration of technologies has resulted in a major shift in the way supply chain partners operate and interact with each other.

The stakeholders in a complete supply chain are taking advantage of advanced technologies, increasing agility, and transforming the supply chain into a business ecosystem. Real-time data collection, big data analytics, heuristics, and machine learning have converted database-driven information systems into proactive support systems.

Industrial and Commercial Barcode Scanning

While barcode scanners have been around for a while, their proper usage in supply chain management and retailing are slowly unveiling. Barcode scanners are increasingly used in the supply chain, allowing companies to track inventory items and gather real-time information from warehouses and retail stores. The Barcode scanners have helped businesses gather minute-to-minute information about product demand so companies can make rapid changes to supply and meet consumer needs.

Barcode scanners help businesses track inventory items and manage replenishment levels, whether industrial or commercial. Barcode provides a complete set of information about the product, batch and lot numbers, date of production, and safety instructions. In warehouses, barcode scanners are used to locate products and track the product from loading to delivery. These tiny devices have played a huge role in enhancing accuracy in inventory management and eliminating data redundancy across the supply chain.

This new Bluetooth barcode scanner has increased data transmission speeds and information security. Using Bluetooth® 5 technology, these barcode scanners help minimize downtime with a wider battery life range. Warehouse workers can now easily scan a product from a distance, and faster data transmission allows instant inventory updates, resulting in increased agility throughout the supply chain.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence continues to transform business processes throughout the supply chain. The use of artificial intelligence in automated production has minimized human intervention, improved productivity through precise manufacturing, and reduced raw material wastage. The induction of heuristics and machine learning in automated production has simplified even the most complex production tasks.

While Artificial intelligence still needs human input, machine learning, and similar patterns to learn, the next steps have set a new standard in supply chain and manufacturing. Decision-makers can now use artificially intelligent software and AI-powered algorithms to create production plans and forecast growth. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have opened new avenues for product transportation. Determining the fastest or safest routes, planning product deliveries, estimating delays, and minimizing logistics costs are some of the milestones AI has reached in supply chain optimization.

Supply chain heuristics and business intelligence has helped businesses minimize supply chain disruptions by increasing efficiency, improving cash to cycle and customer order cycle time, estimating fill rates, and tracking other key performance indicators.

Using Additive Manufacturing to Reduced Wastage and Increase Manufacturing Accuracy

In a conventional supply chain model, the net wastage from raw material extraction and supply, production, and product delivery made up huge overhead costs for all entities in a supply chain ecosystem. Businesses can instantly switch materials using advanced analytics to take advantage of better pricing.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing has revolutionized product manufacturing. It has drastically reduced rapid prototyping costs and minimized raw material wastage. 

Rapid prototyping through 3D printing facilitates real-time raw material induction, resulting in minimal waste and maximum output efficiency. Computer simulations and meshes in product designing have exponentially increased production accuracy.

3D printing has also facilitated firms in producing goods closer to their customers, which results in fast inventory cycles and turnaround times, decreased logistics costs, and improved quality. Additive manufacturing is also enabling easy production of spare parts.

Read: 5 Tips To Successfully Implement New Technology In Your Organization

Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) is the digital network of devices connected to supply chain management systems or other information systems. The internet of things aims to transfer real-time data to central systems. Devices like cameras, scanners, sensors, biometric devices, face recognition devices, printers, and temperature control devices are some of the most common equipment used with supply chain management systems. Real-time data transfer has numerous advantages for businesses. While some sensors can readily count finished products, others can calculate the amount of waste produced during automated production.

RFID technology and GPS systems instantly update fleet locations, and information systems can use this data to estimate delivery time and calculate delays. With increasingly diverse applications, the IoT will likely continue growing in importance in the supply chain, particularly in logistics. IoT can also be used to improve warehouse management and maintenance. It is possible to combine IoT devices with other pieces of technology for even greater benefit, depending on what kind of devices you have. For example, integrating sensor data with barcode scanners allows real-time tracking of a whole batch of freshly-manufactured products.

Integration of IoT with information systems allows businesses to forecast production and inventory cycle times, track certain assets, and estimate the number of fleets required to move finished products to retailers and consumers. With the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturers and logistics services can also anticipate equipment wear and tear and order replacement parts ahead of time.

Integrated Supply Chain and Cloud Computing

The idea of an integrated supply chain has been around for a year, but the latest technologies like cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems have accelerated the transformation of the conventional supply chain into integrated and optimized supply chain systems. All supply chain entities are now intertwined through cloud technology. Instead of operating alone, businesses are increasingly becoming part of the complete supply chain ecosystem, including suppliers, logistics partners, product distributors, retailers, and customers. Cloud technology and SaaS systems have promoted a smooth flow of information throughout the supply chain and provided a unified platform to share information. Real-time information sharing has played a huge role in increasing supply chain agility and data transparency.

In addition to being more efficient than paper-based communication, supply chain integration has drastically reduced the time and costs of manual transactions between supply chain partners. Supply chain partners can now access production and inventory information, product warehousing and shipment details, point of sale entries, and customer order tracking. The use of blockchain technology has further eliminated the need for third-party financial institutions or banks for transactions.

Read: Ways To Utilize Technology For Resort Management

Final Thoughts

As technology continues to penetrate the business industry, supply chain entities worldwide are most likely to adopt the latest technological trends to streamline supply chain operations and increase agility. Increasing supply chain productivity and agility requires all supply chain entities to optimize business processes and implement intelligent integrated systems to counteract any disruptions in the supply chain and foster a better flow of information to thrive in the harsh business environment.

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