Three trends in supply chain management and logistics in 2016

As e-commerce develops and customers make ever greater demands on the supply chain, so technology is enabling businesses to be more agile, responsive and intelligent in their activities. This piece will discuss three key trends in supply chain and logistics in the coming year as businesses that do things right will become the most competitive and most able to meet the demands of their customers.

Artificial Intelligence, collaboration and agile management will run through both sectors, enabling those who bring them on board to have leaner and more efficient business practices.

Artificial Intelligence

People have been talking about driver-less cars, vans and lorries for over 50 years but as technology improves, supply chain management driver-less vehicles are about to come into their own. There have been road trials of HGVs engaging in ‘platooning’ where lorries formed a queue at a set speed on a motorway and were controlled by the lead vehicle, significantly increasing fuel efficiency.

With legislation changing to suit, some estimate that there could be as many as 10 million self driving cars on the roads by 2020. One company has even developed a small driver-less cart that can deliver payloads of up to 20kg to customers that could be on the road as early as next year.

Smart warehousing and factories?

Warehousing and factories are becoming more and more automated, with people doing far fewer operations than they did even 5 years ago. Driver-less car technology is being field tested in controlled environments such as warehousing, benefiting the wider world while driving costs down in the supply chain.

Where robots have been in use for quite some time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is starting to move up the pile to management. As the technology develops, so AI will be able to coordinate robots and meet the demands of customers, a role once held by people.

Agile management

In the supply chain and logistics field, managers and staff have always had to think on their feet and make snap decisions on the hoof. This will only increase! With consumer technology such as smartphones, technology can be bought in as apps from third party developers, and integrated into a company’s systems very rapidly. Software as a Service (SaaS) systems such as the Electio delivery management software can make for leaner, faster operations.

However, just bolting on a new bit of kit won’t magically improve your workplace! According to Grant Marshbank, COO of VSc Solutions, “Technology will only deliver the intended positive results if it is implemented with strategy and operations that adhere to best practice in supply chain management. Get basics right first. Not even the smartest technology can compensate for less-than-best practices.”

Collaboration

Collaboration is another buzzword as companies throughout the supply chain build ever deeper relationships. Procurement was once a business where the buyer went in to get the lowest possible price to achieve the best possible margins when they sold the goods on. One example of deep collaboration is where delivery companies employ staff in their clients’ offices to manage customer issues as they arise, enabling highly efficient collaboration when it comes to delivery issues in the last mile.

 


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