Many in the logistics profession and beyond may hear a lot of talking about implementing a "smarter" supply chain, with relatively little clarity on what that actually means or how to meaningfully achieve it. There may be many paths to a smarter supply chain overall, but they all require buy-in from your partners throughout that ecosystem, and proper investment.

In short, you cannot make your supply chain smarter without gaining more visibility into it and collecting as much data as you possibly can over a sufficient period of time, according to Supply Chain Digital. That means implementing data collection throughout the shipping and receiving processes at every step along the line, and feeding that into systems - such as artificial intelligence, business intelligence or machine learning platforms - that can rapidly process the information and either provide insights humans may have missed, or make predictions about future needs.

Intelligent supply chains run on data.Intelligent supply chains run on data.
In either case, these platforms will help improve decision-making and, in so doing, help enable that "smarter" supply chain so many executives now seek, the report said. Identifying inefficiencies is perhaps the clearest example of why this is such a valuable goal to pursue.
"As we work with more shippers and carriers, we get a better understanding of how much capacity is available and how much demand is coming in on specific lanes," Casey Olives, Head of Data Science at the shipping company Convoy, told the site. "Being able to have a contextual view of the entire network will enable us to drive efficiencies in utilization and costs, benefiting both carriers and shippers."

Getting the necessary buy-in
As mentioned, it's all well and good for a company to track everything that goes on under its own roof, but if it cannot collect and share similar data from its partners, it's not getting the full picture, according to IBM. This is why more businesses are standardizing their data collection and storage efforts with devices connected to the internet of things, and protecting the data they collect with blockchain technology.

While relatively nascent on the scene overall, such technology is making rapid gains, with experts seeing the market for blockchain in the IoT nearly quadrupling over the course of 2018 alone, and an expected average compound annual growth rate of 93% through 2024, the report said. Literally hundreds of billions of connect devices are expected to be online worldwide before the end of the year, and any companies that aren't making these investments now are increasingly likely to fall behind.

Other needs
Of course, beyond simply investing in IoT-enabled devices and getting involved with blockchain technology, companies also have to make the data they collect not only shareable, but easily accessible, according to Mojix. Putting this data in the cloud, where it can be tapped by relevant parties and safeguarded against unwanted access - such as with encryption - is a must for enabling a smarter, more effective supply chain going forward.

Businesses that are looking to launch these efforts in their everyday work need to get together with their partners to determine a collective path forward that works for all involved.
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