With accelerated speed of digital transformation, in next few years, the supply chain as we know, will become obsolete and will be replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end workflows and requires very little human intervention
Supply chain is probably the delicate aspect when we talk about businesses. These supply chains could be inward in terms of utilities, raw materials, etc and could be outward in terms of ready materials to the customers. Every business decision has to be based on supply chain and legacy technologies do not provide the end-to-end transparency. The absence of data can wreak havoc on businesses, and we all have seen that over the last year. Businesses which had the right technology in place survived to tell the tale. With accelerated speed of digital transformation, in next few years, the supply chain as we know, will become obsolete and will be replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end workflows and requires very little human intervention.
With the right technology in palace, business leaders can capture, analyze, integrate, easily access, and interpret high quality, real-time data. This data further fuels process automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
We are working with some leading companies like Apollo Tyres, Unilever, etc, that are already exploring the possibilities. We have witnessed many of our customers using robotics or artificial intelligence to digitize and automate labor-intensive, repetitive tasks and processes, such as purchasing, invoicing, accounts payable, and parts of customer service. Predictive analytics is helping them improve demand forecasting and thus reducing or better managing volatility, increasing asset utilization, and providing customer convenience at optimized cost. Sensor data on machines are helping manufacturers to better estimate any probable break down, so that the downtime is minimized. Blockchains are beginning to revolutionize the way supply chains are monitored and secured. The blitzkrieg speed and accuracy with which COVID -19 vaccines are being supplied and administered is the most striking demonstration of how the union of technology and supply chain can work wonders.
Another key concept that is coming up is the “digital control tower” - a virtual decision center that provides real-time, end-to-end visibility into global supply chains. A typical “tower” is actually a physical room staffed with a team of data analysts working full-time, 24/7, monitoring a wall of high-definition screens. Visual alerts warn of inventory shortfalls or process bottlenecks before they happen, so that teams on the front line can course correct quickly before potential problems become actual ones. Real-time data, unquestioned accuracy, relentless customer focus, process excellence, and analytical leadership underlie the control tower operations.
The same concept is also being used by manufacturers. Any manufacturer depending upon the scale, typically moves hundreds and thousands of parts and components per day and these control towers flag potential supply issues as they arise, calculate the effects of the problem, and either automatically corrects the issue using predetermined actions or flags it for the escalation team.
What do these trends mean? It is amply clear that the machines are replacing the supply chain and are doing a better job. It is only obvious that in the not-so-distant future, automated processes, data governance, advanced analytics, sensors, robotics, artificial intelligence, and a continual learning loop will minimize the need for humans. There will be demand for very niche skill sets in humans. People will be needed who can analyze and validate the data, and are comfortable using digital tools, algorithms, and forecasting. Additionally, specialists will be required for designing technology driven agile supply chains that can remain sturdy in highly dynamic strategy and can cater to requirements and priorities of businesses. People will also be needed at the intersection of operations and technology. These skill sets are not available today, so the companies need to start investing in hiring new people or reskill/upskill its existing workforce. The end of the traditional supply chain is just right around the corner and we need to update our skills to come out a winner while operating the new supply chain.
The author is Senior Director - ERP Cloud, Oracle India