Leaders in the supply chain industry no longer consider new technologies as merely a necessary “means to an end.” These systems are now considered vital because they are continually evolving, growing increasingly smarter and faster, and expanding their capabilities at unprecedented rates.
Supply chain management strategies come and go, but the 2021 tech trends are shaping up to be the most revolutionary in several years as businesses prepare to reorganize for a post-coronavirus world. Forward-thinking organizations recognize the importance of digitalization exploitation as they consider new transitions to more innovative technologies, potential disruptions to conventional supply chain models, and other previously unforeseen challenges.
To maintain and hopefully exceed their companies’ current competitive advantages, the successful enterprises of tomorrow must instill a new corporate mindset today – one that accepts and embraces long-term or perpetual change. According to a recent survey, the top technology priorities of supply chain professionals in 2020 are big data analysis, IoT, and cloud computing. Looking forward to 2021, Artificial Intelligence systems, robotic automation processes, blockchain technologies, and other technological advancements are topping the list.
1. Robotic Applications Processes (RPA)
According to a 2020 Gartner report, global revenues from RPA software are expected to soar to $1.89 billion in 2021, a whopping 19.5 percent increase from the previous year. Furthermore, supply chain experts forecast that RPA adoption will only continue to escalate by double digits well into 2024.
The 2020 pandemic nearly brought several sectors of the global economy to their knees due to the supply chain logistical nightmare that immediately followed. However, organizations that had already adopted RPA strategies weathered the storm much more cost-effectively because these technologies help companies improve overall operational functionality by diminishing their reliance on human employees.
2. Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)
The heightened demand for RPA during the pandemic is causing technology leaders to search for other innovative methodologies to further safeguard their supply chains from future catastrophic events. The goal is to create and implement automation solutions that are the fastest possible, the most intelligent, and completely error-free no matter the potential threat. Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) combines the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence and the rules-based strategies of RPA with the trial-and-error educational capabilities of Machine Learning. In short, IPA is RPA on steroids.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As RPA and IPA technologies continue to attract widespread adoption, Artificial Intelligence or AI is emerging as a top 2021 tech trend in the supply chain industry, as well. By analyzing big data compiled from in-house operations of the past, AI algorithms can now quickly and automatically perform essential operational functions for today and well into the future.
Machine learning can identify, understand, and even replicate complex patterns, content, and procedures with ease. Instead of employees wasting valuable time and money by performing repetitive administrative tasks, day-in and day-out, AI automation handles everything. To make AI adoption even more appealing, the Microsoft Power Platform offers an AI Builder feature in Power Automate that allows organizations to build, train, and publish AI models without the need to write a single line of code.
4. Blockchain technologies
Today’s consumers are growing more reliant upon same-day delivery services, which can create logistical challenges for the typical business. By integrating blockchain technology with conventional supply chain management applications, organizations can expedite delivery by cutting out the middlemen. Blockchain technologies allow technology leaders to distribute digital data more quickly, transparently, and securely. Meanwhile, the Microsoft Power Platform with its Power Automate feature enables vendors, customers, shipping and logistics firms, and in-house inventory managers to coordinate seamlessly and in real-time.
Much like cloud-based data storage, the primary use of blockchain is for improved data transparency. However, due to its unique encryption and time-stamp ledger capabilities, blockchain is substantially more secure and completely incorruptible.
Another top 2021 tech trend is the rise in public and government acceptance of cryptocurrencies as a preferred mode of payment. As cryptocurrency’s popularity continues to rise, forward-thinking institutions are now recognizing Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto coins as relevant legal tenders for customer payment options.
5. Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT refers to the billions of physical gadgets around the world that interconnect with the Internet. From video doorbells that automatically film visiting guests to lightbulbs and home security systems that can switch-on from miles away using only a smartphone application, IoT technologies are being utilized by major companies more and more every day.
For optimal supply chain management, companies are now using IoT-enhanced devices for location authentication of customer packages, quantities verifications of raw materials, and tracking the speeds at which their products and services arrive at their expected destinations. IoT devices can also help organizations identify problematic movement patterns during shipping processes and develop contingency routes in real-time.
6. Supply Chain as a Service (SCaaS)
While many companies today are still heavily reliant on in-house supply chain management strategies, industry experts predict a growing movement towards widespread SCaaS adoption starting in 2021 and throughout the coming decade. By outsourcing everyday administrative tasks associated with logistics, inventory management, packing, and delivery, companies save time and money through more simplified internal operational protocols.
Integrating these SCaaS systems with AI, blockchain, and IoT technologies only enhance data and operational security, transparency, flexibility, and agility even further. Organizations can minimize supply chain disruptions, make faster and more precise market predictions, and enhance overall business continuity and productivity. Customer satisfaction levels also tend to show tremendous increases. And by tracking all related activities through the Microsoft Power Platform with its Power Automate feature, everyone in the supply chain stays up-to-date in real-time.
7. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things, otherwise known as IoT, refers to the billions of physical contraptions around the world that interconnect to the Internet. From video doorbells that automatically film any visiting guests to lightbulbs and home security that can switch-on from miles away using only a smartphone application, IoT technologies are being utilized by major organizations more and more every day
For optimal supply chain management, companies are now using IoT-enhanced devices for location authentication of customer packages, quantities verifications of raw materials, and tracking the speed at which their products and services arrive at their expected destinations. IoT devices can also help identify and resolve problematic movement patterns during shipping processes and develop contingency routes in real-time.
To remain competitive in the fast-paced world of business and commerce, today’s organizations must adapt. Top 2021 tech trends in supply chain management technologies like AI, RPA, IPA, blockchain, SCaaS, IoT, Microsoft Power Platform, and Power Automate will inevitably become the very backbone of the entire industry.
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