Logistics has been an important link in the consumer value chain ever since the second industrial revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Mass produced goods, often manufactured in remote locations, increasingly needed to be transported to geographically spread consumers. With the globalisation of the world’s markets in the last couple of decades, the demands on the logistics industry have grown exponentially, raising the complexity and extend of processes involved, to advance the sector’s economic contribution to approximately 12% of the entire global GDP. And like any other global industry sector, it is currently undergoing a digital transformation.
To put it simply, logistics is big business with many moving parts. Literally. One that is being re-defined by four key technologies.
Data-driven decision making is enabling organisations to flex their supply chain to cope with rapid fluctuations in supply, demand and transportation. The four important technologies driving change in the supply chain are: blockchain, the internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA) and data science – BIRD. Blockchain enables all players in a network to share a single (encrypted) database. IoT is essential for gathering vast number of data points. RPA improves data accuracy by substitution human input with software robots and closes the “data confidence gap”. Data science is key to unlocking this collective data value and making smarter decisions.
The supply chain is sitting in the middle of a revolution. On one hand, legacy technologies and processes dominate decision making and the management of complex systems. On the other, technology and platforms are evolving at remarkable speeds, introducing faster and more effective ways of making decisions and driving efficiencies. It’s a crossroads that’s asking the supply chain to reshape its structure, to bypass old silos, and to find inventive solutions to market uncertainty and supply chain fluctuations.
Today, thanks to the global pandemic, supply chains are in survival mode. The chaos has rippled through systems and customers and planning like a tear through paper. While it has left many organisations in the supply chain reeling, it has also highlighted the gaps into which new technology can seamlessly fit. Technology that can help the sector overcome uncertainty, manage rapid change, and minimise the impact of fluctuations in supply, demand and transportation.
A BIRD in the hand
According to the PwC research ‘Connected and autonomous supply chain ecosystems 2025’ supply chains are facing significant disruptions that require transformation and investment to overcome. The study found that those organisations that had invested into supply chain excellence and focused on digital had experienced increased revenue, reduced costs, improved delivery, and better risk management and sustainability.
Data, and the ability to harness it for improved decision making and business management, is critical. Access to data is vital. That’s why the technologies of blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA) and data science (BIRD) have become the collective key to unlocking the multiple doors that currently block supply chain efficiencies.
The high-level of security and transparency offered by blockchain and distributed ledgers means that it can help to improve efficiencies and reduce admin without a weighty additional cost. Blockchain allows for the secure sharing of a single database across multiple, relevant, users. This immediately improves access to data, management of information, and transparency. With the right blockchain implementation, the organisation can significantly streamline shipments, transactions, and systems.
Internet of Things
The vast network of devices, sensors and information points is what makes IoT such a relevant, and powerful, tool for the supply chain industry. The data collected from the various devices and sensors can be used to refine efficiencies, track containers, minimise theft, improve storage, and provide real-time data insights. This information can then be used to improve processes, save money and identify issues. This level of visibility means that the business can fix problems very specifically, and reduce risk measurably.
Robotic Process Automation
Accuracy is key to get true value from data. With RPA, the supply chain can embed robotic and automated intelligent processes into the business that gather the data accurately. This information can then be used to refine processes and improve employee roles so that they can focus on more relevant tasks. RPA has the potential to further streamline processes due to accurate data management and capture, and it can reduce costs and improve speeds.
Data is more than the hype. It’s more than the terminology of ‘big data’ or the complexities that often surround the business intelligence platforms that analyse and manage it. Data has become a commodity that the business can control to generate tangible insights that can be used to be measurable results. It allows for the business to find the hurdles and intelligent ways around them. It finds new ways of working and can highlight potential new avenues of revenue. Data, when paired with the right technology and organisation culture, can reduce bottlenecks, unlock value and transform decision making.
Article published in partnership with AYO Technology Solutions.