Game Changers in Supply Chain

Augmented reality, big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, mobile devices,… They all sound promising, but will these new technologies also be implemented and succeed in delivering added value to the supply chain of the future? The 2018 CIMCIL Symposium offered some inspiring insights. One thing is certain: the race for the future has already begun.

Today more than ever, the key to driving an organization’s performance lies in the intelligent use of data
But how to transform data into information leading to new insights? BASF CEO, Wouter De Geest, explains how the world’s no. 1 chemical company is moving from a point-to-point exchange of data to network exchanges: digitalization. Digitalization is driving growth and opportunities by creating added value along the supply chain. From artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, new technologies enable companies to share information across an integrated, digital supply chain. However, these new technologies require an integrated way of working and balanced data management. The dilemma of the commons and the anti-commons illustrates the need for balance: information is worthless when owned by either no one or everyone.

Data quality is another important aspect. As the saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out”. Data quality is of paramount importance. By creating an open ecosystem to securely share information, companies will be able to change the way their supply chains are organized. The evolution from a sequential process to a networked way of working, where all parties involved speak one common language, will enable them to streamline business processes and ultimately create a more cost efficient and high performance supply chain.

Jean-Luc Verhelst
, author and blockchain expert, was able to explain how blockchain will change (almost) everything the way the internet changed (almost) everything, and how it will be integrated in the digital supply chain. In fact, it is already happening. From retailers tracking meat using blockchain, to a Digital Port Logistics Platform securing the release of containers. Blockchain is more than a hype. It represents a fundamental change in information sharing by eliminating the need for a middle man. The horizontal way information is shared using blockchain enables all parties involved to track, authenticate and evaluate data. Even though there are still multiple challenges (scalability, data quality & governance to name three), blockchain and by extension the horizontal, open way of working it represents, is here to stay.

The future is digital

But blockchain is only one example of technology rooting in the digital supply chain. Other examples include the use of drones, robots and artificial intelligence by the Belgian Customs Authority. To adequately manage the threats and opportunities created by globalization, digital highways and risk assessment have replaced randomized control.

Médecins Sans Frontières, on the other hand, was confronted with the need to set up an integrated global supply chain to reach the most remote regions in the world, while still ensuring quality requirements are met. They used technology to create a common language that everyone understands and in doing so, created a supply chain that enabled end-to-end visibility, resulting in better balanced inventory levels, global real time traceability and cost efficiency.

Atlas Copco built a collaborative platform linked to their ERP system to share information in a network, enabling efficient and open communication on incident reports, service interventions and maintenance planning.

These are only a few examples of organizations that are working on initiatives to not only incorporate new technologies in their operations, but strategically update their way of working to capture the added value they create. Undoubtedly the future will bring more, because it is safe to say: the future is digital.

Report by Marlies Helmer, Expert Supply Chain Consulting