Today's supply chains are under enormous pressure to manage their supply chain faster and more efficiently. Technology officers are looking to applications to meet efficiency demands from both customers and management. The rate at which technology is expanding its capabilities seems to make what was an impossible idea just a few short years ago now a plausible solution.
One only needs to look at the mind-boggling applications of 3D printers or any of the endless apps on your phone, which can provide an endless supply of on demand services. Companies that continue to utilize traditional supply chain models will struggle to remain competitive and deliver orders that are complete, accurate and on time. Now more than ever it is evolve or die. Let's explore a few innovations in development.
Inventory and Network Optimization Tools
Inventory and network optimization tools are one of the top emerging technologies that are having a great impact on logistics. The implementation is inexpensive and results are easily measured.
Start with inventory. Most supply chain managers have a good idea of the optimum inventory levels of their raw materials and finished goods. The methodology by which we monitor and manage these levels can always be made more efficient. A strategic approach to inventory would include holding the right amount of inventory in the right locations based on desired service levels and risk tolerance. The latest technology applications can get closer to the ideal inventory level by creating real time inventory needs and usage analysis, returns management and replenishment.
Network optimization can also help improve distribution lanes for both customers and suppliers. As companies grow, both organically and through acquisitions, geographic concentrations of customer demand can change. Utilizing the latest technology applications to plan capacity and network configurations are key to staying lean and aligning the distribution network with future growth plans.
Sensors and Automatic Identification
Automatic identification technologies include barcode, point-of-sale systems, RFID, voice, imagers, and beacons. These systems compile and manage meaningful supply chain information accurately and very fast. Auto ID supplies corporate information systems with the precise identity and location of each physical item in a supply chain in an automated and timely manner. Utilizing these technologies provides a significant opportunity to improve tracking and tracing systems, process control, and inventory management. It allows us to literally know where every dollar of inventory is at any stage of the supply chain and make use of that information to maximize efficiency.
Robotics & Automation
Robotics engineering has been a limited, but growing, part of U.S. manufacturing for years. Typical applications have been simply repetitive maneuvers, which are easily programmed into hydraulic application arms. Technology has steadily improved to expand robotic applications to more complicated assemblies. Today's robots are capable of producing goods with higher quality and fewer errors than humans can. Plus, they don’t need health and retirement benefits, salary and related employee liabilities.
Modern-day robots are easily integrated into existing manufacturing and distribution operations. Their versatility is limited only to their programming parameters and existing hydraulic maneuverability. Robotic technology has become affordable for most any size company. Tasks can now be automated inexpensively and effectively, which might not have been considered in the past.
These are just a few of the emerging technologies being implemented in the world wide manufacturing and supply chain market. In our next article we'll examine more emerging technologies like 3D printing, Drones and driver-less trucks.
For more logistics news, click the button below.