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The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns impacted the supply chain sector with huge uncertainties, instabilities and risks. While industries worldwide are still battling with supply chain disruptions, most businesses are fast making foundational changes to their logistic operations, the primary being in the field of technology. Leading supply chain companies in India are also working at adopting latest trends in supply chain management to eliminate bottlenecks related to limitations in capacity and streamlining operations.

A study on the supply chain trends 2023 revealed the increasing focus on digital transformation, risk management and resilience apart from the importance of a sustainable network among supply chain companies. This article lists the top 10 emerging trends in supply chain management that are gaining momentum in the logistics and procurement sector.

A Gartner survey to understand supply chain technology revealed:
• 38% of supply chain organisations are improving technologies to support end-to-end processes
• Half of supply chain organisations plan to invest in artificial intelligence by 2024
• Eight technology trends will accelerate digital transformation in the next few years

Future trends in supply chain management in 2023

1. Artificial Intelligence

The logistics and supply chain sector has been using Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions over the past few years and the trend continues to dominate. AI is being applied in transportation, routes and demand planning, last-mile delivery solutions planning, robotics, warehouse automated picking systems and predictive optimization software, and it is making a huge difference in the sector.

Augmented Intelligence is another area that is being used in supply chain management wherein Augmented Intelligence combines human intelligence with AI automated processes. As per a Gartner research, Augmented Intelligence is expected to create $2.9 Trillion of business value and increase 6.2 billion hours of productivity globally by the end of this year.

2. Digital Twins

One of the latest technology trends in supply chain management in India is digital twins. You may be aware that products are never the same as their computer models. Certain parameters like wear and tear, how fatigue accumulates in structures, customization requirements are not taken into consideration during modelling of products.  The digital twins technology enables physical and digital worlds to merged into one thereby enabling customers to engage with the digital model of a physical object first to have a better understanding of their physical counterparts.

So, how is this technology relevant in logistics?  Digital twins find application in shipment sector to collect information on product and packaging data and identify potential weaknesses in order to improve future operations. Warehouses use this technology to create accurate 3D models of their premises to visualise layout changes or introduce new equipment in digital medium without having to do it physically. Again, logistics hubs use this tool to test out different scenarios for increasing efficiency and securing real-time information to assist delivery timelines.

3. Real-time supply chain visibility

Supply Chain Visibility (SCV) in real-time has become a necessity in the current scenario as customers and carriers demand real-time data to understand the status and delivery timelines of their goods.  Many logistics and supply chain companies are focussed on implementing cutting-edge SCV solutions that enable quick responses with the use of real-time data on traffic patterns, weather, or road conditions. Research shows that companies who have adopted SCV have seen 20% more efficiency than those who have not.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT sensor technology is another crucial area when it comes to supply chain visibility for tracking of shipments. IoT devices that are connected on cargo enables warehouses to track inventory, and vehicles through cloud. It also helps in real-time monitoring, implementing preventative maintenance, increasing fuel efficiency, and making container operations proactive. Adoptions of IoT is fast gaining popularity in supply chain domains like air and defence industry too.

5. Blockchain

Blockchain is another emerging trend in procurement and supply chain management. It is fast gaining momentum as one of the most popular logistics technology trends used. However, the concept of the blockchain is complicated and its potential is often underutilized by businesses due to the same reason. Blockchain refers to an open ledger of transactions distributed among computers in a single network. It facilitates everyone in the shared network to access the same ledger thus enabling total transparency. Logistics providers can use this technology to make it easy for different carriers to share data and create supply chain solutions.

However, to successfully incorporate blockchain, logistics providers need to digitise and standardise their data across the industry to form an ecosystem of supply chain partners in a blockchain environment.

AI, IoT, and blockchain are some of the emerging trends in logistics and supply chain management driving competitive advantage for businesses.

6. Advanced analytics

Major inefficiencies arise in the logistics industry due to data being stored in a haphazard manner, thus leading to difficulties in digitising operations. For logistics companies who want to keep pace with the changing times, an upcoming supply chain analytics trend that they can invest in is data standardisation. There are many logistics startups that are helping businesses to clean and digitise their data for advanced analytics and predictive optimisation. This process will enable better supply chain visibility, demand forecasting, predictive maintenance and last-mile delivery.

7. Robotic process automation (RPA)

 While robots have been used in supply chain management for years in movement and transportation of goods, AI technologies have taken robotics to new levels of sophistication with machines being assigned several tasks that were earlier done manually. Tools like AI, machine learning, and IoT connectivity have truly enhanced the precision and mobility of industrial robots apart from fostering safe practices. The new generation of cobots (collaborative robots) programmed to work alongside humans is powering huge deployments throughout the supply chain.

According to a survey, 65% of warehouse activities will employ robots by 2023, thus cutting processing time in half.

8. Immersive technologies

Another contemporary technology trend in the supply chain domain is use of immersive technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) that allows supply chain providers to improve digital experiences of employees and customers.  As per a study by Gartner, it is estimated that VR will reach mainstream adoption within the next 2-5 years, and AR in the next 5-10 years respectively though many industries are already using these technologies to enhance repair and maintenance capabilities in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing, and product visualisation for better purchasing choices for customers.

9. Technology for sustainability

Sustainability is a dominant trend across industries and logistics is no exception. To reduce the impact of environmental hazards, companies are leveraging a wide range of technology ranging from electric vehicles to AI-based software to track the shortest routes to lower carbon emissions. eCommerce giant Amazon recently committed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years earlier as part of its “Climate Pledge”. It plans to set the example for other businesses to work towards net-zero carbon across their operations by 2040. Similar logistics technology trends are also adopted by over 60 commercial groups to reduce carbon footprints and adopt a more sustainable stance.

10. 3D printing

The popularity of 3D printing comes from consumers’ interest for personalised products apart from the demand for made-to-order and localised production. This has surged the demand for this innovation. With the availability of new materials and manufacturing technologies and less expensive hardware, supply chain and logistics providers are investing in technologies and going for decentralized production to make parts and products in local assembly hubs. This step has facilitated businesses to save on logistics and transportation costs, reduce their carbon footprint and deliver products to consumers faster.

To sum up – how best to leverage technology for logistics and supply chain

Technological innovation is already being used in the supply chain sector to positively impact customer satisfaction and improve efficiencies from an operational perspective. Supply chain providers are now looking at every possibility to bring about supply chain resilience and agility with the use of technology.

It is recommended to collaborate with available technology partners to make your logistics process modern and tech-savvy.