Next-generation supply chains: Technology services objectives

Evolution in the supply chain is the subject of constant discussion, whether the conversation is about specific developments or the general movement toward more intelligent and connected systems. Technological advancement is the common thread between all theories of logistics' future. New introductions such as blockchain ledgers and evolving tools such as big data analytics will empower departments over the coming years, allowing goods to move more smoothly around the world and between organizations of all kinds.

There is one note of caution to be sounded in this discussion, however - too much dwelling on IT-based advancement may take some of the focus off of other kinds of progress. Seeing technology as the only lens to view the supply chain risks making the industry seem more one-dimensional and transactional than it truly is. The other side of the supply chain, the high-level objectives driving processes, are essential to understand.

What's the strategy?
Bryant University associate professor of marketing and supply chain management Michael Gravier, contributing to Inbound Logistics, recently offered a reminder for department leaders to think of strategic considerations when becoming more technologically enabled. He noted that the overall trends guiding the next generation of logistics aren't fundamentally dictated by IT. Rather, these processes are enabled by tech, with individual implementations creating synergistic answers to the big challenges facing companies.

Gravier placed the latest tech trends into categories based on the objectives they can help companies achieve rather than letting them stand alone. For instance, businesses want to have cause-and-effect visibility into all levels of their supply chain networks. The way to get closer to this goal isn't purchasing a single high-tech tool. Rather, organizations can and should combine updated solutions such as cloud data access, blockchain ledgers and analytics engines to create flexible approaches to processes such as risk management.

Synchronicity is another of the primary goals companies today should seek from their supply chains. Gravier explained that truly next-generation supply chains will be able to respond adaptively to the problems and potential disruptions they face. To get to this objective, leaders will combine data from many advanced IT tools rather than adopting a single, one-stop technological solution.

A "supply chain" word cloud on a tablet screen.Supply chain technology helps companies make progress, and isn't an objective unto itself.
Granular objectives for today
On top of the general areas in which logistics leaders hope to improve, there are a few targeted and specific goals on the table for supply chain operations in 2018. According to Hackett Group research presented in Supply Chain Digital, today's organizations' top priorities include such important moves as improving relationship management and measuring procurement value more accurately. Organizations are aware of areas where they can approve, and simply need to find strategies that will get them to their goals.

Technology remains a key element in achieving the aforementioned objectives. With supplier organizations becoming more tech-savvy and connected, procurement departments merely have to meet them halfway to engage in more rewarding and collaborative relationships. Furthermore, IT enhancement may prove essential in proving value and effectiveness to internal departments outside of the supply chain. When procurement is digitized, it's easier to track the exact role and purpose of logistics teams. In such moves, IT and objectives align perfectly.
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