Over 3,000 supply chain professionals gathered at the annual Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) EDGE Conference in Nashville this week to learn and share perspective on where the supply chain industry is heading. It’s truly an exciting time to be a supply chain professional. Nearly every aspect of the supply chain is being disrupted in some fashion, whether by artificial intelligence, blockchain, or digital technology and e-commerce. Throughout the conference it was evident that the core motivation behind the disruption is the drive to leverage the supply chain in creating the optimal consumer experience. For the companies and professionals attending, there were tangible takeaways on how best-in-breed supply chains are handling and thriving in this state of disruption.
Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics
Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics have been a hot topic in the industry for years now but it’s clear we have now made the shift from conceptual to practical applications. We heard this week how leading companies have made the transition from what-if conversations to putting their insights to work. Not surprisingly as many companies start this journey, the first thing they are looking at is their data. Without strong master data practices and an understanding of the data, you cannot unlock the full power of artificial intelligence and analytics. Over the years many companies have harvested large pools of data, and now have the technology at their fingertips to get the most of their data and move from basic reporting to predictive analytics that can be used to optimize the supply chain. Being able to leverage weather data to optimize freight patterns, for example, is an achievable goal in today’s data-loaded world.
Supply Chain Transparency
Companies are investing more on the ability to have greater visibility into real-time location throughout the supply chain to help optimize their supply chain networks. Tom Elliott and Chris Phillips shared how Pfizer is leveraging their “Track-iT” app which shows the location and status of 15,000 SKUs in real-time. As you can imagine, having this information at their fingertips allows Pfizer to more effectively make supply decisions and frees up their organization to work on other value-added efforts. Not only can the organization reap significant benefits from visibility, but the consumer ultimately will as well. With greater visibility, manufacturers will be able to better predict when stock will be delivered and in turn patients will be less likely to face an out-of-stock scenario.
Today’s consumer has higher expectations than ever before. They expect their products to be available where they want it and when they want it. This right product, right place, right time philosophy is supported only through a flexible, agile supply chain. The rigidity of the supply chain of the past has limited retailers from being able to meet their customer’s needs, and the supply chain of modern companies today must be agile in order to supply product from any channel. While the customer experience has been a modern trend for years, the focus was on the shopping experience more so than the back-end supply chain. To take the next step in enhancing how companies service their customer or patient, the focus has now shifted to how supply chains can continue to build out the positive customer experiences and ultimately serve as a competitive advantage.
Blockchain has Arrived
In 2018, you cannot go to a conference without hearing about blockchain and the CSCMP EDGE Conference was no exception. Blockchain is a topic folks in apparel, food and beverage and pharmaceuticals alike are trying to figure out how to effectively leverage. While many are still trying to truly understand blockchain and remain in the wait-and-see phase, we’re seeing the first practical applications of blockchain technology come to the forefront. Traceability of product using blockchain technology is increasing visibility and accountability throughout the supply chain. With the recent news of Walmart giving vegetable suppliers a deadline of 2019 to put their data into a blockchain platform, it’s clear that there is now momentum behind this technology which will only continue in the coming years.
As always, the CSCMP EDGE Conference provided tremendous opportunities for networking and learning from the best of all of us. As supply chain leaders look to the end of 2018 and the new year, it’s critical to consider what role advanced technologies and capabilities will play in your supply chain operations. Operationalizing this advanced technology requires both the technical understanding and a deep knowledge of business processes to ensure sustainable adoption and long-term benefit.
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Coauthor and contributions by: Sean Burke