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Supply Chain’s Future Rests in the Cloud

Oct. 16, 2017
Supply chains are ready for a digital makeover, based on intelligent technologies like AI, machine learning and the IoT.

As with many facets of business, the supply chain management (SCM) industry is working to leverage technology to accelerate processes and cut costs. Many supply chain leaders are now exploring how emerging technologies like the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can benefit the supply chain. If executed properly, the supply chain will, undoubtedly, reap the benefits of a digital makeover.

However, businesses looking to make the transition to the cloud and integrating emerging technologies must ensure the adopted technologies not only streamline business processes, but also help solve day-to-day challenges now and in the future. While it is extremely important for all industries to take advantage of new business technology solutions, the retail and manufacturing industries have an opportunity to dramatically improve day-to-day warehouse logistics and also decrease product time to market. Whether businesses would like a better view of their assets, or save time and money, moving supply chains to a cloud platform, enabled with AI, IoT and machine learning, will lead to business outcomes.

Connecting the Dots

The accelerated demand of consumers mandates that businesses need to ensure their supply chains can keep pace and continue to stay competitive. Yet, disconnected legacy systems are inhibiting retail and manufacturing companies from quickly adopting technology solutions to address the needs of modern business. To transition legacy systems to a more modern approach, businesses should look to cloud-based management solutions to integrate all areas of supply chain, both internal and external, to gather real-time data and enable a more holistic view into the supply chain. Emerging technology devices and systems can help bring together supply chain planning, manufacturing and maintenance and provide the necessary insights to properly manage across the entire system.

For example, utilizing IoT enabled cloud technology can provide real-time visibility to machines operating in various production lines in different locations, and inform managers about the most productive locations and associated performance details. This gives managers insight to connect and streamline processes across multiple locations for more effective production. Additionally, supply chain transportation will improve as logistics receives updates on traffic delays and keeps drivers appraised in real-time to help keep shipments moving.

Better Strategic Decision-Making

Once businesses have a connected, unified platform, their supply chains will be able to fully take advantage of emerging technologies. These business solutions offer a wealth of data not just around past and present activities, but also predictive insights to prepare for the future. Having this predictive technology will help businesses operate better with accurate demand forecasting, better inventory control, reduced delivery time and decreased factory downtime. Powerful data analytics gathered from AI, IoT and machine learning technologies can provide businesses with the information needed to not only course correct should any issues arise, but also use that knowledge to develop strategic, forward-thinking plans that better serve the business, its customers and its partners.

Suppose a supplier is unable to fulfill a critical battery component needed for a new toy launch. The integrated system immediately uses this data to find all products that are reliant on that specific type of battery. Product, manufacturing and sales managers are notified in real-time. The planning system looks at the latest predictive data and begins to preemptively shift inventory from local warehouses to where the demand is needed most. Logistics is automatically engaged to find the best transport rate, while still meeting the launch deadline. This type of strategic decision-making—where a potential issue is mitigated through analytics, prediction and prescription—is made possible with a modern, integrated supply chain management system based in the cloud.

AI, machine learning and IoT can also uncover new ways for a company to streamline supply chain processes. With this added data, decision-making will be strategic, actionable and made in real-time, helping to ensure that business resources are properly used to deliver complete customer satisfaction.

Preparing Businesses for the Future

The key to a modern and successful supply chain is a complete, end-to-end view across the entire supply chain. Our contention is that a service based in the cloud can provide the necessary foundation to deliver a holistic view of the supply chain while taking advantage of emerging technologies like AI, IoT and machine learning. These technologies, partnered with cloud, not only help businesses’ supply chain processes today, but also prepare them for the future of supply chain management.

Cloud-based solutions help lessen the burden of maintenance and upgrades, ensure regulatory compliance quickly and are primed to integrate future business technologies, allowing businesses to better focus on their core mission.

For instance, a supply chain manager using cloud technology would be able to see the full spectrum of warehouse activity across different locations (globally or regionally). Moreover, once this technology is paired with AI, IoT and machine learning, the manager will be able to see if a machine is not operating at full capacity, be able to source the problem and use these emerging technologies to fix the issue in real-time—even if they are not at the location where the incident happened.   

Albert Chiang is director of product marketing with Oracle, a provider of cloud applications, platform services and engineered systems.

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