Administrating people, resources, and technologies involved in the manufacturing process isn’t easy. There are many things to think about, and cutting down costs and minimizing shortages are challenges of their own. The strategies we use today have been developed since the 1950s, so they’ve come a long way. However, a new chapter is about to begin. And because of that, today, we’re talking about supply chain automation in 2021.
Automation of these operations is a top priority for many companies. According to research, more than 40% of the surveyed companies have made a plan for implementing automation within the next 12 months. That’s already a promising number. However, on top of that, we also have billions of dollars that top companies invest in warehouse automation and cloud logistics.
Therefore, things are already looking good for logistics and supply chain management. But, let’s dive a little bit deeper and find out what we can expect to see this year.
AI Will Become Stronger
It’s no secret that pretty much all industries anticipated automation in the previous decade. There were plenty of investments going its way, so all the chances are that the trend will only become stronger this year.
Artificial Intelligence has pretty much an unlimited number of applications. Currently, it’s a leading propellant for automation in the supply chain industry. But its potential is much more significant. AI algorithms can perform simple operations on their own by learning from the data from past operations. This system saves time and eliminates the possibility of human error. It makes the basic tasks more efficient and lets humans deal with more complicated things.
For example, CRM or customer relationship management is where AI has been shining for a couple of years now. It allows you to make your workflow simpler by automating the interactions with customers and leads. No matter if you’re in a moving, marketing, or customer services business, CRM automation will make your life easier. So, be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.
Improved AI is one thing that we can be certain we’ll see in digital supply chain automation in 2021.
Blockchain Will be Widely Adopted
We’ve all heard people calling blockchain both the biggest breakthrough and the biggest hype. However, the technology has proven its value in many industries, and the supply chain is one of them. Recently, research found that, in the food and beverage industry alone, blockchain can save up to $31 billion by 2024. That’s a sizable number, to begin with. So, we can expect to see broader adoption of it in 2021.
The primary way companies use blockchain is to improve transparency. The data-sharing software we used in the past years was somewhat obscure. We don’t have to explain how that can have negative impacts on the supply chain. Blockchain, on the other hand, allows data to be shared across the chain without any restrictions. And since it is immutable and incorruptible, it’s also much more secure than cloud sharing of data.
Cryptocurrencies are another big part of blockchain technology, so we can’t forget about them. As more and more governments recognize them as legal currencies, industries are also starting to use them. Experts predict that these will become the preferred mode of payment for cross-border trade, and it can happen as soon as this year.
End-to-end IoT Will Also be Accepted
Another technology that the supply chain industry is adopting at an incredible pace is the internet of things (IoT). Similar to blockchain, it also works towards improving transparency. So, we can expect to see more implementations of it in supply chain automation in 2021.
The way IoT works is indeed simple. It allows for GPS trackers to be fitted on different modes of transportation so you can get live location tracking. In warehouses, it helps with visibility in inventory management, while in retail, handling the demand is where it shines. Therefore, it’s one thing that can be both the right warehouse and distribution solution for your business.
IoT will offer help in all stages of the supply chain.
Robotic Automation Becomes More Present
While the automation of operations is one part of supply chain management, manual tasks are as important. Each year, billions of dollars are invested in robotic automation in North America alone. And there’s a good reason for it.
When it comes to the transportation sector, we know that companies have been using drones for delivering lightweight parcels for a couple of years now. And although driverless vehicles are present only in harbors, they might soon become a reality on the roads as well.
It’s also expected that we’ll see a wider acceptance of autonomous mobile robots in the warehouses. Of course, these won’t replace humans by any means. On the contrary, they’ll free people from menial labor and let them focus on more important tasks, like decision-making.
Supply Chains Will Become More Agile
We’ve all seen what kind of impact a situation like a global pandemic can have on the supply chain on the example of the auto shipping industry. So, if there’s one thing we can learn from it, it is agility. The supply chain needs to be stable enough so it can withstand shock, whether we’re talking about major or minor ones.
Using AI and machine learning, we can build models that will predict future events and prepare for them. At the moment, not many companies are utilizing this technology. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener for many, so we are seeing more and more of them joining the game.
Another benefit that comes with improved agility is that we can personalize shipments. Until now, these were based on pre-orders and created in bulk. Therefore, changing anything regarding the cargo in the middle of the chain was impossible. However, that’s about to change. End customers will get more power as companies build infrastructure that allows them to customize orders along the way.
As supply chains get more agile, end users will get more possibilities to utilize them.
Supply chain automation: main takeaways
To sum up what we talked about, we’ll give you a few key takeaways from this article.
So, the things we can expect this year are:
- AI will become more prominent.
- Blockchain and IoT will be wider accepted.
- Robotic automation will become even stronger than it is.
- We’ll see plenty of customization possibilities and agility improvements in the SCM (supply chain management) systems.
As you can see, there’s plenty of things to look forward to in supply chain automation in 2021. Machines and AI won’t replace people, but they will allow them to focus on more important tasks.
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