Which areas of investment should supply chain firms pursue?

Companies in the supply chain are always on the lookout for ways they can improve their positions within the industry, and make themselves more efficient. That often requires investment in various aspects of their business so they can be more responsive to various forces beyond their immediate control. However, that understanding also brings with it a serious risk of "analysis paralysis," as there are many potential areas of investment and all may be equally appealing at first blush.

One wise area for any type of investment is under the umbrella of "supply chain tech," but that obviously brings with it a wide variety of subcategories, according to the MIT Sloan School of Management. For any company that hasn't jumped on the opportunity presented by the internet of things yet, now is the time to do it, as that will give them far greater insight into more aspects of their operations than they likely have today. The IoT allows you to identify areas of inefficiency, however small, and make more informed decisions about how to smooth over those kinks whenever they arise.

Keep better tabs on your inventory with new tech.Keep better tabs on your inventory with new tech.

But if you already have IoT devices under your roof, you might want to look at other opportunities, such as relying on artificial intelligence to do a better and more efficient job of interpreting the larger quantities of data you now collect, the report said.

"With just-in-time manufacturing, we care a lot about where a product is, when it's going to arrive, and how it fits into the overall logistics flow," said Stuart Madnick, an emeritus professor of information technologies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "IoT devices, combined with the cloud and AI, make all that much more effective and comprehensive."

Why it's important
Having the ability to get a better handle on how items flow through your facilities is important not just for your own operations, but for those of your partners in the supply chain, according to Green Biz. Sharing the critical tracking data you collect with those companies gives everyone more insight into the process of shipping every item you handle, improving traceability and helping to ensure all the right items get where they need to go in the most timely manner possible.

This may be particularly true when it comes to the food supply chain, where the provenance of every item is of the utmost importance, the report said. Using the IoT, AI and the blockchain in concert will help guarantee all items are genuine and easily verified at every step of the overall supply chain.

What comes next?
Of course, when it comes to investment of this type, you should never rest on your laurels, according to Logistics Management. There's always a new wave of next-generation technology a year or two away, and staying on top of what's being developed - and how it can help you - will allow you to make better decisions going forward as well.

Simply put, you never want to be in a position where you're using legacy technology that's a decade-plus behind the times, through inertia alone. Always being ready to see what's next and where your money should go is a must in the supply chain sector.

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