Supply Chain Management just may be the most exciting place to be these days. Starting with Industrie 4.0, arguably the father of the digitalization movement, nowhere are Business 4.0 strategies and technologies being piloted and adopted by companies more rapidly than in supply chain management.
Business 4.0 provides the supply chain with the fuel it craves more than any past initiative. Supply chains are measured by agility and flexibility, two attributes that are more difficult to improve given the complexity of sourcing, making, and delivering goods in instantly and consistently changing physical material flow paths to meet the challenges of global customer service driven market ecosystems.
To meet these challenges, companies must adopt new business models that are digitally connected networks of consumers, customers, trading partners, service providers, financial and government institutions, dispersed globally. Managing supply chains requires advanced analytics for planning and execution that respond to deviations from plan based on analysis of new sources and types of data to meet uncertainty and volatility with effective, efficient, and profitable service at the highest levels in history.
Mining the new data requires deployment of sensors, monitors, and controls leveraging the Internet of Things. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning fuel cognitive solutions that refine the data into actionable insights. Cloud computing provides the foundation for solutions that are affordable, maintainable, and rapidly deployable. Never before has so much computing power and connectivity been as available as it is today.
New advanced manufacturing methodologies leveraging additive manufacturing (3D Printing) and robotics are transforming operations and execution processes as fast as blueprints can be transmitted to the printing/manufacturing locations. Locations, by the way, that can be affordably deployed close to the market and customer to be served. Components are stored in raw material state as the ultimate postponement strategy to implement make to order and mass customization, Business 4.0 market initiatives, and new product introduction.
And, robotics are not just for manufacturing anymore. Advances in autonomous robotics and functional design are enabling companies to leverage robotics in warehousing and transportation. Companies are quickly implementing “person-machine” capabilities to leverage processes best performed by humans with processes best performed by robots to optimize productivity. Autonomous robots adapt more rapidly to changing environments and processes. This enables robotic solution providers to offer robots on an on demand, rental or lease agreement to offer flexibility in the number of robots employed at any given time to provide affordable, flexible scalability for companies to ramp up for peak times and ramp down for slower periods without capital investment.
And, the network connectivity across market ecosystems facilitates unprecedented levels of digital collaboration among all of the organizations, functions, and individuals comprising a market ecosystem. We can’t break down the functional and organizational silos; but, digitalization can remove the communication constraints through electronically shared information and prescriptive analytics, enabling us to break down the barriers to effective collaboration.
Facilitating collaboration to enable and automate processes, we are leveraging new technologies, such as BlockChain, for secure and immutable data sharing and intelligent processing of transactions across market ecosystems. And, let’s not forget the impact that autonomous commercial vehicles are going to have on addressing transportation challenges and costs.
Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a supply chain management professional. At TCS, we are working with our clients, our partners, and leading research institutions and organizations to ensure timely assessment, adoption and deployment of Business 4.0 strategies and digital technologies that provide clients with the innovative and competitive edge they need to make the most of this exciting time.
By Matthew Lekstutis, Global Managing Partner, Global Supply Chain Practice, Tata Consultancy Services (pictured)