There has been much written and said about where supply chain is headed with the advent and proliferation of new technologies and systems. I believe that supply chain management is just entering its era of greatest growth and contribution to society.
As the old saying goes, forecasting is hard, especially when it’s about the future. Nevertheless, a couple of indicators regarding the future seem to be going unnoticed by supply chain managers. Firstly, most of our “physical” economy is on the verge of entering the information age. Only 30-percent of investments in IT have been made by “physical” industries such as manufacturing. Supply chains, of course, traditionally move “stuff”—and they’ve only just begun the process of integrating the physical and information worlds. Companies like General Electric are famous for investing in the “internet of things,” and this is a primitive beginning to the true integration of the physical and digital economies.
Secondly, I can’t think of the last time that I heard a supply chain manager talk about the behavioral aspects of supply chain management. Technology is powerful and it is important to remember that it is a tool in the hands of human beings. We have a warning sign from the era of ERP installations: 70-percent failed because the people processes weren’t adapted to leverage the capabilities of the technologies (or vice versa). Supply chain management is the key to resolving the issues of worker burnout, productivity doldrums, and customer disengagement because supply chain management is the most important weapon for deploying business strategy.
To be successful in supply chain management, you need to focus on teaching yourself and your people about technology, especially handling and mining machine data—already the fastest growing body of data. The recently announced initiative between Maersk and Microsoft—the world’s largest transport logistics and software companies—provides a sign of things to come: industrial app stores, seamless customer experience, world-class service, and enabling it all, the seamless integration of worker knowledge and supply chain data.