Industryweek 27867 Smart Supply Chain

It’s Not Your Dad’s Supply Chain Anymore

Feb. 10, 2018
Companies adopting an intelligent operations strategy to manage their supply chains will be in the best position to succeed in the future—if they have the right talent.

“Intelligent Operations” technology, as opposed to traditional, transactional ERP systems, is an application category that gathers and provides context to diverse data sources, providing visibility to all of the participants in the value chain to enable faster decisions that eliminate waste and raise customer service levels.

With that in mind, supply chain executives across all industries have been developing digital strategies over the past several years. They are aggressively addressing integrated technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), on mobile, collaborative and cloud-based platforms, applying predictive analytics even more rapidly to all supply chain processes, further automating digital manufacturing, customer service and distribution with robotics and drones and artificial intelligence (AI).

An IBM Institute for Business Value survey of senior operational executives across a wide range of industries and geographies (“The future has arrived for intelligent operations”) found that COOs and CSCOs (chief supply chain officers) are aggressively reinventing business models, strategies and technological capabilities.

Eighty-eight percent of the highest-performing organizations surveyed report that AI is inevitable in their industry. For example, companies can apply AI technologies to sales and operations planning and other massive supply chain data pools to manage demand volatility, supply constraints, production scheduling and dynamic distribution.

Additionally, a new report from Accenture and HfS Research found that organizations that leverage intelligent operations will have a quicker, insight-led decision making process and will be in the best position to succeed in the future.

The survey showed, however, that there is currently a lot of room for improvement as 80% of those surveyed said they were concerned with disruption and competitive threats, while a similar percentage of organizations said they are currently unable to make data-driven decisions due to a lack of skills and technology to process data since much of the data is unstructured and largely inaccessible.

They concluded that organizations must take a holistic approach that integrates intelligent technologies with business process and industry expertise and human ingenuity to drive best-in-class decision-making, business outcomes and customer experiences.

The survey concluded that the following components were critical to the successful use of intelligent operations:

Innovative talent. Must have creative problem-solving skills as well as digital expertise.

Data-driven backbone. Use of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources to gain new insights needed for stronger outcomes.

Applied intelligence. Using integrated automation, analytics and AI-based solutions, organizations need talent who can understand the business problem and then apply the right combination of tools to find the answer.

Leveraging the power of the cloud. The cloud will enable better integration of diverse data and help organizations move toward a software-as-a-service environment.

Smart partnership ecosystem. Organizations will develop symbiotic relationships with start-ups, academia, technology providers and platform players to achieve their goals.

There has been talk of pervasive intelligent operations (AI, etc.) in the supply chain for many, many years. Perhaps its time has finally come.

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