Top Tech Trends New Grads Need to Know for IT Supply Chain Success

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You’ve just graduated and are ready to take on the world of supply chain management — from procurement to planning, logistics, management, transportation, and delivery, you know it all!

However, there’s a bit more to it. Besides the traditional knowledge gained from your college or university classes, navigating supply chain management also requires staying up to date on the latest trends and technologies as well.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the top tech trends that impact the supply chain field, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, automation, and more. Stay on top of the competition by learning these trends and working on relevant coding projects to put on your resume.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain 

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence is the hottest trend at the moment. The AI revolution has expanded to practically every industry, from healthcare to finance, transportation, and even art.

In fact, you’ve probably studied artificial intelligence or used it for a relevant university project!

​​While many might fear that robots will take over their jobs, it’s actually quite the opposite — AI will make your supply chain job easier instead of obsolete.

AI tools have already started to be implemented across supply chain management in order to boost efficiency and transform the way we manage the flow of goods.

One of these tools is demand forecasting. AI algorithms can quickly and easily analyze large chunks of historical data, predict market patterns, and improve demand forecasting accuracy. Thanks to AI, companies have a better understanding of their inventory levels and can reduce waste and overbuying.

Another example is route optimization. Using its advanced algorithms, artificial intelligence can design the most efficient delivery routes by taking weather, real-time traffic, and available resources into consideration. This saves considerable time and fuel costs — and, of course, customers are happier that they receive their orders on time or earlier!

Blockchain Technology 

Let’s take a second and remember the projects you studied at college  — if you ever had to do a traceability or data management project, you’re probably familiar with blockchain technology.

An important takeaway from these projects is that blockchain is a game-changer for supply chain management.

Some of the benefits of using blockchain technology in supply chain management include traceability and transparency, improved licensing of service, and better asset tracking.

Take, for example, traceability. Blockchain provides a tamper-proof record of a product’s journey from its origin to the end consumer, which in turn improves product safety and helps combat counterfeit goods. It also ensures ethical sourcing, as companies have the ability to verify the ethical practices of their supplies and comply with strict regulations.

Speaking of suppliers — using blockchain and fostering transparency also helps create trust between supply chain partners. This creates benefits like smoother collaboration, better decision-making, and faster data sharing.

One last trend in using blockchain for supply chain management are smart contracts. These are digital contracts stored on a blockchain that automatically execute when certain conditions are met. Contracts can include payment, transfer of ownership, and other transactions. This is quite the improvement, as smart contracts streamline transactions and reduce the need for middlemen.

Automation 

New trends in automation continue to simplify many aspects of supply chain management.

While technology has been performing tasks that were traditionally done by humans for many years, the actual process and technology has continued to evolve and change.

For example, new and improved software has automated many tasks of supply chain management, including demand forecasting, inventory management, and scheduling. As we touched upon in the first section, the advent of artificial intelligence has helped accelerate the process.

Similarly, introducing robots has also greatly improved warehouse and transportation management. Robots can quickly find and pack orders, transport goods, and unload trucks at their origin and destination.

Amazon is the most popular case study of using automation, as it employs more than 200,000 robots to work alongside (human) employees to optimize the shipping process. Meanwhile, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s automated warehouse uses robots to handle more than 70% of the work, which has improved productivity, lowered error rate, and reduced processing time.

Many supply chain managers are also implementing automated inventory management in tandem with robots. RFID (radio-frequency identification) and automated stock keeping systems track inventory levels in real-time, automatically triggering replenishment orders and minimizing the possibility of stockouts.

How to Stay on Top of the Latest Trends 

With so many new technologies and trends, staying ahead of the curve is essential to be successful in supply chain management.

One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date is by investing time in reading industry publications, attending webinars, and keeping your knowledge ‘fresh’ by participating in courses or certifications.

​​​​Likewise, in-person events, meetings, and conferences are another great way to learn more and network with other professionals in the industry.

Finally, seek hands-on experience. While theoretical knowledge is a great foundation, actually working on projects that involve these new technologies and trends is the best way to embrace them.