The journey towards digital interconnection has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is reflected in Gartner’s report on the Top Supply Chain Technology Themes for 2021. Gartner’s analysis usually identifies individual technologies that are shaping the sector, but this year they have focused on overarching themes that incorporate several or more technologies.
Here is an overview of Gartner’s top supply chain trends for 2021.
For the uninitiated, hyperautomation is a disciplined approach that helps businesses to identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. It is business-driven and can include any or all of the following technologies, tools or platforms:
Even before the pandemic, the procurement and supply chain sector was crying out for automation technologies that could take some of the burden out of transactional processes and mitigate errors in increasingly complex supply chains. Software service assistants, robots and other automation platforms will play a vital role in ensuring the sector can cope with future challenges and demands.
Digital Supply Chain Twin (DSCT)
The Digital Supply Chain Twin (DSCT) is a digital representation of the physical supply chain. The DSCT is derived from all the relevant data across the supply chain and its operating environment. It helps ensure that local and end-to-end (E2E) decision making is aligned horizontally and vertically throughout the entire network.
Immersive Experience and Applications
Many of us are already familiar with immersive experience tools such as head-mounted displays (HMDs), wearables, and smartglasses. This technology, once the stuff of science fiction, is now being used to improve supply chain processes. Christian Titze, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice explains how it helps; “Pioneer companies already benefit from outcomes, such as safer working environments, faster repair times, improved work error rate, better collaboration and retention of skills and knowledge.”
Edge ecosystems are made up of edge computing and edge data processing applications that can be used by technology managers in the supply chain to reassign and replan large swaths of data processing capacity to the edges of enterprises, where things and/or people produce or make decisions. For example, edge ecosystems could be used to track and monitor condition or temperature requirements across multiple phases of a product’s life cycle.
Supply Chain Security
As the name suggests, supply chain security aims to create a more unified approach to tackling security risks such as cybercrime or counterfeit goods. The ultimate goal is to have a holistic, scalable and digitally connected end-to-end security network that will support and protect the entire supply chain and its people.
Environmental Social Governance (ESG)
Every supply chain operator has the opportunity and moral obligation to play their part in protecting the environment. A key part of this is mapping and assessing ESG risks and opportunities. The ESG technologies that are currently available enable companies to track the origins of products, such as palm oil or soy and align with corporate biodiversity and climate change goals. Not only do these activities help mitigate environmental impact but they also offer an opportunity to positively influence brand perception and improve brand image.
Embedded AI and Analytics
Embedded AI and analytics are software capabilities that deliver real-time reporting, interactive data visualisation and advanced analytics and intelligence directly into an enterprise business application. These technologies can be used in the supply chain sector to support warehousing by using mobile robot controls or intelligent robotic picking systems to leverage embedded analytics.
Augmented Data Intelligence
Gartner describes augmented intelligence as a “design pattern for a human-centred partnership model of people and artificial intelligence working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences”.
Augmented data intelligence is a combination of a number of technologies that help to facilitate advanced data processing on top of a data platform. These powerful insights can inform and improve decision making and enhance supply chain processes by allowing supply chain professionals to analyse multiple data pipelines simultaneously.
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