Startups, especially looking to market a physical product, face intense challenges, when it comes to supply chain management. Storing, transporting, and delivering products is rather critical, as much as a business chooses or builds the product.
Here, some of the supply chain technology that assists startups for automation; and the avenues, where they can be prudently implemented, are conferred.
Big Data Tools
Big data have been the buzz word in all kinds of industries, for quite a while now. And when it comes to supply chain management, it implicitly assists in automation. To be precise, it bridges the massive volume of stored data with the applications that automate the processes.
Big data tools assist businesses to arrive at definitive forecasts, on the demand, expectant inventory run rates, etc. Moreover, as mentioned, when implemented efficiently, the big data can also work together with other technologies like machine learning, to intensify the stock management.
For example, when the relevant data can be fed to an AI-based system, to evaluate, how long the stocks would last; when you will need a resupply, and so on.
Therefore, it helps supply chain managers to establish automated orderly procedures and operation. Hence, warehouses and distribution centers self-govern, even in cases that involve enormous complexities.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is again a continually evolving tech, which has transformed the way objects, ranging from coffee-maker to car, can function. As more and more objects gain connectivity, the reach of the technology is intensified.
It helps to automate supply chain operations in a number of ways, such as:
Material handling & logistics – IoT enables various machines with connectivity, such that they identify potential breakdowns. This can, in turn, lead all interconnected devices to automatically adjust their operations, surpassing the limitation.
Inventory management – A smart inventory management, is fundamentally important in the supply chain sector. IoT brings in extensive visibility on the inventories to the warehouse management operations. Hence, paving ways to place orders, strategically.
Tracking goods in transport – IoT, with the help of sensors, can track and monitor the goods in transport. These sensors are placed in the delivery vehicles; and eventually, it becomes easier to identify and initiate automatic triggers, to act on any undesirable events.
The blockchain is a latterly established adornment to the supply chain technologies that specifically emphasizes on automation. It’s a globally distributed online ledger, which businesses can use to track and automate transactions, through what it calls, the smart contracts.
Major brands, like Walmart, BHP Billiton, and IBM, have already incorporated blockchain, to their supply chain management. Whereas, startups are also swarming around this technology lately, as it enables them to automatically execute pertinent actions, admissible to multiple signatories.
The smart contracts generally constitute contractual rights, such as terms & conditions, payment consent, delivery policy, etc. Automation is complemented, encompassing all these stipulations.
For instance, let’s assume that a supplier has breached the terms, disrupting the product. It’ll correspondingly enact an autonomous series of actions, such as sending out a demand for a contractual penalty to them; initiating an insurance proposal; reordering the product from the relevant source.
Robotics & Artificial Intelligence
Supply chain management is naturally aligned to Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). Most of the tasks relating to the supply chain don’t require much of cognitively tactical skills; they largely involve monotonous and repetitive procedures.
Hence, it poses as an appropriate sector to be automated.
The corresponding avenues, where robots and AI plunge into action are:
- Moving goods from one part of the warehouse to other.
- Checking and approving product quality (usually done with the help of sensors).
- Turning processes into algorithms, automating the whole process, through machine learning.
- Autonomous package delivery, through drones.
Automation, utilizing these two entities, helps in cost-cutting, as labor costs will be cut down; reduce waste; minimize human errors; improve supply chain efficiency, and also discovering opportunities for innovations.
3D printing can seem like an odd one in the list. But in actuality, it vastly holds all prospective potencies to automate the supply chain management. While, robots and AI focus automation on repetitive tasks, 3D printing is aligned to detail-oriented tasks.
Moreover, this technology, subsequently augments the automation capabilities of other relevant technologies, such as drones, machine learning, etc.
In the traditional model, the products are manufactured first; stored in respective warehouses; and then the customer places the order, after which it’ll be dispatched to them. But, when 3D printing is deployed efficiently, a customer would place the first; and after that, it’ll be printed and sent to the customer.
Therefore, the supply chain management becomes clutter-free, with minimal inventories to manage; simplified raw materials storage; reduced shipping time frame, as products are instantly printed.
Supply chain management is becoming increasingly complex and more business-critical factor, day by day. Hence, it obviously needs a tech assistance, to make sure that right things are at right place and phase. The mentioned technologies, when deployed pertinently, provide exactly what a business needs, as far as supply chain and logistics are concerned.