When Elon Musk recently announced that Tesla would start building electric semi-trucks that would have 500-mile range, and come with a version of Tesla’s Autopilot driving aid, the world realized it wasn’t a matter of if, but when these new trucks would be hitting the highways. The pace of technological innovation is advancing at an exponential rate. With advanced hardware, software and connectivity becoming accessible and cost effective on a global scale, we’re experiencing an innovation shift from desiring “better gadgets” to discovering entire new business categories built around technology.Technology has become fully embedded in supply chain management. Supply chain conference agendas are dominated by tech talk. Robots, self-driving vehicles, electric trucks, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new mobile-enabled categories are all poised to explode onto the scene in one form or another.
Blockchain Technology Should Gain Traction
A Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. The security of blockchain technology is what makes it appealing. The technology has promise, but is still years away from any kind of mass adoption in the supply chain arena. In 2018, we should see a few viable blockchain concepts emerge because many existing companies and new startups will be trying.
Mobile Devices and Capabilities Will Be Prevalent in 2018
Look no further than what’s happening with home appliances where new refrigerators and thermostats now come with internet connections and mobile apps. New machines are already transmitting inventory data and performance information to the central control tower systems that companies use to monitor their supply chains. IT departments will be challenged by the trend of what has been dubbed "Big Data", but more information, delivered in real-time, will ultimately solve more problems than it creates.
Supply Chain Visibility Will Increase
Supply chain visibility (SCV) is the ability of parts, components or products in transit to be tracked from the manufacturer to their final destination. The goal of SCV is to improve and strengthen the supply chain by making data readily available to all stakeholders, including the customer. Blockchain technology will play a big role in this aspect of technology. SVC has become more important as companies have outsourced parts of their supply chains and lost control and visibility over what used to be part of their own operations. Supply chain visibility technology promotes quick response to change by allowing privileged users to take action and reshape demand or redirect supply.
Sharing Economy Solutions Will Continue to Thrive
Uber and Airbnb proved that a well-designed mobile app has immense potential. We are now seeing Uber and others set up driver networks to deliver packages to consumers by using their personal vehicles. This trend will continue in 2018, and expect to see personal vans and even trucks begin to take on even heavier loads. Advanced mobile apps and off the shelf sensors will be able to provide better visibility and control than most shippers get today.