An unprecedented influx of technological innovation is swamping today’s supply chain professionals, and many are realizing they will have to keep up to stay relevant.
A new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently examined five technologies that are poised to revolutionize the supply chain even further than they already have: drones, driverless vehicles, 3-D printing, wearable technology and robotics.
Businesses need to take a serious look at these technologies to ensure their long-term viability.
While drones may have gotten a lot of headlines lately as a solution for the last-mile delivery of goods, the reality of having a package delivered to your doorstep by a drone appears to still be a long way off. However, drones are much closer to taking on less technically demanding tasks, like tracking warehouse inventories or handling aspects of supply chain security.
With there being so many limitations on how and where drones can be used, businesses that are thinking about using them should look into areas of their own supply chains before they start planning on using drones to deliver goods to customers.
Driverless vehicles are authorized for use in seven states and will considerably impact transportation costs when the technology can be fully leveraged.
The two main benefits that driverless vehicles can provide are increased safety and lower costs. With respect to safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said greater than 90 percent of car accidents are due to human error. Because automation can’t get distracted, tired or drunk, driverless cars would significantly boost safety and many are expecting this will lead to reduced liability for people and organizations that operate these vehicles.
Furthermore, driverless trucks could operate around the clock and this would allow for the same quantity of freight to get hauled with around 40 percent fewer trucks. Carriers will likely get greater returns on their assets, while shippers should see lower rates.
3-D printing technology is expected to lead to a very short, very reactive and infinitely versatile supply chain. In the supply chain of the not-too-distant future, the customer will place an order; then a regional, automated 3-D printing facility will generate the finished product, which can then be quickly delivered. As opposed to having a company in the driver’s seat, a future supply chain model will begin and end with the consumer.
Wearable technologies will expedite all parts of the supply chain being performed by humans. Right now, that means helping warehouse workers organize, pack and inventory goods as well as spot safety hazards or map out the most efficient path to the next pick.
Robotics have been in the supply chain for greater than 50 years, but they have become vastly more important in the last decade. Supply chain robotics will become even more productive as companies begin to realize the potential of Big Data and The Internet of Things. Major advancements will be based on seamless connections among physical devices and their software.
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