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4 Technologies Creating Supply Chain Transformation

Illustration showing supply chain cycle

John Soat, a freelance writer for Oracle, wrote an article in Forbes about four emerging technologies that could create drastic supply chain transformation. Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and predictive analytics, augmented reality, and blockchain have the power to change the way supply chains operate moving forward.

Supply Chain Transformation Technology #1 – Internet of Things

Supply chains and IoT are a natural fit. However, Harish Gaur, Senior Director of IoT and Blockchain SaaS Applications at Oracle, explained that many IoT projects fail because they’re focused “too much on the internet and things, and too little on business outcomes.” Luckily, there are steps to take to help avoid that problem.

The first step is to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that will determine the project’s business success. From there, you’ll need to define the data that is necessary for those KPIs. For example, you may want to collect real-time data from IoT sensors but also data from asset management, finance, manufacturing, and database systems.

There are two strategic elements of deploying IoT technology within supply chain management:

  • Digital thread—the connection of specific assets, data flows, and work processes that produce a business outcome. Digital threads map out how IoT data can be used effectively. The data eventually drives workflows inside enterprise applications.
  • Digital twin—a 3D recreation of a machine or business process. The digital twin provides a 360-degree view of the asset’s physical functioning and interactions with other entities. It is crucial to validating an IoT implementation by representing devices monitoring machine operations or steps in a supply chain.

Physically installing IoT technology requires tactical decisions about the most appropriate and cost-effective hardware devices and communications gateways. One factor within IoT is known as edge computing, and it helps determine how much data processing can and should be done at the device level vs. passing it off to applications in the Cloud.

Supply Chain Transformation Technology #2 – Machine Learning + Predictive Analytics

Supply chains can make the most of the data collected, especially if using IoT, by leveraging machine learning and data analytics applications and techniques. This “applied data science,” as Bhagat Nainani, Group Vice President of IoT and Blockchain App Development at Oracle, calls it, will re-orient supply chain strategies. It will create a shift from being reactive to proactive. The automated decisions and predictions and machine learning can offer will help supply chains became more proactive about their business by identifying hidden problems.

In addition, more data analysis will make it possible to predict future states of supply chains. This will ultimately result in more accurate demand and operations forecasting, according to Nainani.

Supply Chain Transformation Technology #3 –Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is another technology that fits well with an IoT-enabled supply chain. An AR interface that is running on top of a 3D model, like a digital twin, can display real-time inputs from Cloud-based data analytics tools. This can help speed up diagnostic procedures related to maintenance or quality control.

Supply Chain Transformation Technology #4 – Blockchain

Much like IoT, blockchain distributed ledger networks are a natural fit with supply chains, but they offer a unique advantage.

Jai Suri, Senior Director of IoT and Blockchain SaaS Applications at Oracle, explained that blockchain is a great tool to enable trust between parties that don’t necessarily trust each other. If partnering organizations have unaligned interests, trust might not naturally exist between them. Blockchain can help. Trust is facilitated by an immutable digital paper trail created by and shared among blockchain network participants.

There are several benefits of Blockchain supply chains, including:

  • Ensuring contract compliance
  • Reducing risk
  • Improving supplier performance
  • Quicker financial settlements
  • Easier audits
  • More detailed verification of regulations
  • Faster trade finance reconciliation

Combining IoT’s real-time visibility with blockchain’s multitier enterprise visibility will ultimately improve the depth and breadth of track-and-trace capability. The same is true with several other blockchain-based processes, like regulatory compliance.

For more information about how these emerging technologies could shape the future of supply chains, check out the original Forbes article and additional Quest resources attached below.

4 Technologies Creating Supply Chain Transformation