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Technology and the future of supply chains

Advanced technology is quickly changing the nature of supply chains and strains have only magnified the need for organizations to seek tools that help them make more informed and effective decisions. In fact, a report from Gartner found that 50% of supply chain organizations will invest in applications that support artificial intelligence and advanced analytics capabilities through 2024.

As more and more organizations implement enhanced technology to streamline the supply chain process, here are the major trends expected to emerge:

Automation has been a growing trend within supply chains for years now and involves the use of digital technologies to improve efficiencies and optimize processes within these operations. Typically, automation is regarded as an effective way to free employees from the constraints of repetitive and error-prone tasks. However, implementing automation technologies is also beneficial to improve transparency and visibility of operations — offering real-time data and up-to-date status information. With a clear oversight of progress and operations, organizations are better equipped to respond to unexpected changes along the way.

Blockchain technology
Another emerging trend that isn't exactly new is blockchain technology. These solutions were introduced as a digital ledger of transactions visible across networks. The traceability and visibility it offers are essential in the supply chain industry — especially as the industry continues to grow in complexity. Not only do these distributed ledgers ensure consistent and up-to-date information to all parties, but it's also completely secure. The security makes it difficult, and nearly impossible, to change or hack the system.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning
AI and machine learning (ML) are relatively new technologies that organizations are rapidly adopting. One of the main advantages of AI and ML is the reduction in manual labor it offers to companies. These technologies are adept at planning, collecting data and creating reports — which improves productivity as a result. A report from Learn Hub found the estimated improvement in business productivity by using AI is up to 54%. Moreover, new software can perform data analytics to further your insight into valuable information. The time-efficient and cost-effective nature of these technologies will quickly become an implementation necessity to keep pace with competitors.

Combining and integrating technologies
In the past, it was believed that you had to choose between advanced technologies, but that's certainly not the case. In fact, it's typically more effective to layer different technologies for a more comprehensive growth opportunity. All of these emerging trends are beneficial to the supply chain industry and are certainly something to consider moving forward. However, if you're concerned with the time and effort involved in implementing these new structures, it's important to keep in mind the ease of integration. Technology that can be easily integrated with others tends to be adopted more quickly and will likely speed up the streamlining process.

Employing advanced technology is becoming a necessity to supply chain management. Not only for its ability to provide valuable real-time data and increase productivity, but also to help your organization maintain a competitive edge and improve adaptability at a time it's needed most.

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