CenturyLink

Kim Lindros

How Cutting-Edge Tech is Optimizing the Supply Chain

Manufacturers are constantly under pressure to lower costs and maximize profits. From product development to sourcing from thousands of suppliers, an efficient supply chain is key to making products better, faster and at lower costs. Today, the technology and processes used to manufacture a product and get them to market are as critical to a business as the product itself.

Unfortunately, the supply chain is like the long kicker on a football team. He’s worth his salary when he makes a field goal from 50 yards out. But where a missed kick costs the team a few points, a serious problem in the supply chain can result in heavy revenue losses.

Extreme weather, a changing political climate, tariffs, cyberattacks and other factors can have severe repercussions on a supply chain. Disruptions are expensive. According to the Business Continuity Institute’s Supply Chain Resilience Report 2018, 14% of businesses incurred losses of more than $1 million dollars due to cumulative supply chain incidents. And disruptions are on the rise. Supply chain disruptions globally nearly doubled in 2017 alone, and the first half of 2018 saw record-breaking disruptions.

You may not be able to prevent natural disasters or other disruptions, but you can minimize logistical disruptions with increased management controls and a dose of technology. A supply chain manager must first identify factors affecting the chain from a procurement, processing and distribution perspective. Then, controlling these factors requires appropriate technology.

The obvious solution is to head to the cloud. Its agile, flexible and scalable nature makes it the ideal environment for handling massive amounts of data and millions of transactions in real time. Cloud-based supply chain solutions are in demand by the industry, and are quickly replacing traditional on-premises implementations.

However, significant advances in artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies, in concert with the cloud, present an even brighter outlook in minimizing disruptions and bringing new levels of efficiency to the supply chain.

AI and machine learning tackle complicated processes, taking humans out of the loop for manual work and decision making. An AI-driven system is capable of learning and improving with experience. For example, AI-integrated supply chains can:

  • Connect to potentially thousands of partners sharing real-time information on pricing and availability of raw materials or components
  • Track and restock depleting supplies
  • Scan and track shipments while en route to their destination

Another potential game-changer is blockchain. From the perspective of supply chains, a blockchain is a distributed database that enables you to create a digital ledger of transactions— from manufacture to sale —for a product. Anyone in the supply chain with the appropriate permissions may view and add data but cannot change existing data or delete it. Many companies are testing the use of blockchain to track and provide visibility into nearly every element of the supply chain.

The ability to minimize disruptions while increasing the efficiency and performance of a supply chain offers a huge competitive advantage. The cloud, along with AI and blockchain, may make a powerful change to how you produce and deliver your products.

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