Supply Chain Technology Gurus Share Top Trends to Watch

Business environment changes quickly. Then, executives need supply chain technology to stay ahead of the game. But what technologies we should pay attention to?

1. Mike Skinner, Vice President, CLX Logistics Technologies

Without question, one of the most significant game changing technologies in the past 12 months and looking forward at the next 18 months is TMS – to which you say “big deal” and I say, “true plug-and-play (SaaS/Cloud) global TMS integrated with global trade and customs execution”. Consider the following – all in one integrated solution:

- full functionality SaaS TMS operational in large scale in all major global regions

- a fully integrated global network of carriers across all modes

- seamless integration to global trade compliance

- automated customs documentation and filing; and

- all of this deployed via a SaaS/Cloud solution

80+% of your global carriers and freight forwarders are already in the network. Customs filing is already integrated with 90% of the countries you are shipping to. All of your denied party lists are already loaded for screening. This is true plug-and-play global TMS plus global trade and customs.

2. Bryan Jensen, Vice President, St. Onge Company

Game changing technologies in the supply run from the immediate, to the near-term, to the futuristic, but there are some clear examples in each.

In the immediate term, predictive analytics drive a distinct competitive advantage to those few who are already leveraging it to its full potential. Whether the data is big or small, companies that use detailed historical data analytics to aid in predicting their future requirements and challenges at the very least are heeding Santayana's warning about not learning from their past. In the near-term, hosted software and cloud computing are making sophisticated warehouse, transportation and labor management systems accessible to organizations that could never support the significant capital investment required to discretely license the same software.

Finally, in the distant future, there are more potential game-changers, from more vertically integrated supply chains (think Amazon delivery network taking your order and delivering your package themselves, no UPS or FedEx necessary) to automated delivery vehicles (think Google cars) rolling up to your door and allow you to enter your PIN number and have your package automatically presented to you 

3. Markus Rosemann, Vice President for Logistics and Order Fulfillment, SAP

There is a great opportunity for technology to relate massive amounts of data from sensors, telematics systems and RFID tagged items in the Supply Chain and Logistics industries. The concept of “connected logistics” covers the relevant end-to-end processes of warehouse management, transportation management, track & trace and the entire logistics network. Thus, increased real-time visibility into shipments leads to more efficient throughput of goods and reduced logistics lead times. Connected devices can also support the warehouse worker (i.e. augmented reality applications for warehouse picking and smart picking robots).

4. Jim Hoefflin, President and COO, Kewill

Driverless trucks, currently being tested in Germany and Nevada, could be revolutionary to the supply chain and might be the solution to the truck driver shortage that’s poised to have a huge negative impact on the industry. Because they minimize the need for a human behind the wheel, driverless trucks would not be subject to mandatory driver rest periods. That would shorten hauling times, automate routes and scheduling, and make deliveries much more predictable. Companies could also run their trucks nearly non-stop, taking them off the road only for scheduled maintenance, thus maximizing value from a very expensive asset. And since they’re immune to fatigue, stress and distraction, the trucks would be among the safest vehicles on the road.

5. Mike Dieter, Chief Technology Officer, Transplace

Companies continue to be faced with the challenge of reducing operation costs within a rapidly changing supply chain. In order to develop cost saving strategies, you must know where you stand today and have the technologies in place to quickly and effectively make those changes. This requires that shippers have complete visibility of their entire supply chain operations by utilizing transportation management systems and business intelligence capabilities to drive financial and operational improvement. The sheer amount of data surrounding the supply chain make business intelligence (BI) tools a necessity for interpreting the endless array of information which can be complex and help establish a baseline and improvement targets. Another tool that assists in breaking down data into actionable information is executive dashboard reporting which helps key management to get an overview of operations and drill down to quickly see and react to changes or concerns in a timely, proactive manner. 

6. Brian Miller, VP of Services at Intesource, a PROACTIS company

Managed services is a sourcing approach less common in the procurement industry today, but poised to grow tremendously over the next couple years.

Managed sourcing establishes partnerships between internal procurement teams and third-party providers that allow procurement professionals to become more efficient and effective. The approach solves one of procurement’s longest-standing problems: a lack of people, time and resources to effectively scale sourcing efforts. When procurement has a team of experts working side-by-side with them on every aspect of a sourcing project from start to finish, they can do more with less -- engaging multiple sources of supply, taking more categories to auction and expanding their supply base by leveraging the provider’s established network of suppliers, all without having to hire or train additional staff. This gives teams visibility to the optimal mix of products and services, prices and contract terms available, ultimately helping them deliver the highest quality and innovation to their customers, and achieve greater procurement performance internally.

7. Pierre-Francois Thaler, Co-CEO, EcoVadis

In light of the commitments reached at COP21, consumer demand for socially responsible business practices and the onset of new supply chain due diligence regulations, the pressure to operate in a more sustainable and transparent manner is rapidly increasing for procurement. Information Technology is becoming a key enabler, to help organizations understand, track and improve environmental, social and ethical performance across the global supply chain. The demand for solutions that can be scaled to fit any sized company, evaluate supplier performance across a variety of categories and implement continuous improvement programs will tremendously increase in the next few years.

8. Mickey North Rizza, VP of Strategic Services at BravoSolution 

Procurement organizations have more data at their fingertips than ever before, but without the ability to analyze and interpret this data, it means nothing. Strategic procurement platforms help organizations analyze their data and make it actionable. By combining supplier data with external information and trends, strategic procurement platforms can help identify weak spots, risks and opportunities in an organization’s global supply chain. 

Strategic procurement platforms make it easy to gain full visibility into the vulnerability’s in an organization’s supply base, granting more time to make smart, data-drive decisions that help combat these vulnerabilities. In light of this, SRM technologies will be the biggest growth area over the next five years.