The new year is well underway and many businesses within the supply chain are trying to set themselves up for success in the months ahead. After a 2020 that was filled with ups and downs, to say the least, some firms may now feel as though they're in a better position to make strategic investments in technology that allow them to take an all-important next step.

When utilized and implemented properly, tech can be a great way to insulate yourself from some financial risk, even if it comes with some obvious adoption costs. The following suggestions could help you find a new type of technology to invest in and help ensure your long-term financial success in what's sure to be a year full of uncertainties:

1) Widespread digital real-time tracking

At this point, most companies within the supply chain have at least some kind of digital accounting of all the items coming into and leaving their facilities, but they may need to consider how modern those systems are, according to the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply and Supply Chain Digital. In 2021, more companies will likely move to track everything under their roof — and beyond — in more or less real time, giving them a bird's-eye view of their past, present and future inventory. That may require more collaboration with partners, but the benefits should be obvious to all.

2021 is the time for your company to put all your data to better use.2021 is the time for your company to put all your data to better use.

2) Edge computing

Along similar lines to keeping track of inventory in real time, edge computing allows your workers to quickly and easily scan and process information into your system as soon as they make that first or last touch, according to Gartner. Using the internet of things, there's no need to wait for data to be uploaded once a device is docked with a computer or similar device, and you get rapid updates on an ongoing basis.

3) 5G-enabled tech

In addition to all that, the proliferation of 5G could bring even more processing and updating power to your real-time data, because if you can keep everything visible no matter where it is on the map, you can make more informed judgment calls on all kinds of issues, Gartner said. The fact is that there is a lot of promise in 5G, and we likely don't even know how much it's going to revolutionize business processes; that may be is especially true when it comes to the supply chain sector.

4) Machine learning

Finally, once you are processing and tracking data in real time, it's important to put that information to use, according to Haslam College of Business. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can enable you to examine whatever data you collect and identify potential snags before they arise, so you can act quickly to keep all your processes as smooth as possible. The beauty of this technology is it continually improves on its previous improvements, meaning you continue to gain increasingly more efficient insights as time goes on.

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