Contribution by Vasilis Karamalegos – Serial Entrepreneur, Founder of SkillsDom co-founder & CEO of DoctoDocs
Business models are changing. Supply chains are changing. Information and expertise are becoming the prime means of gaining not only competitive advantage for the present but a sustainable one for tomorrow. New challenges are on the horizon, hidden just beneath the surface of the present, so take a peek into the future to discover if you’re ready to face the storms ahead.
3D printers use an organic process to “print” an end product layer by layer. All you need to create a new product is the CAD software, some design skills and the printer. If this doesn’t seem disruptive, consider the implications for aftermarket supply chains, where a printer and a computer full of designs can replace entire warehouses full of stocked parts. Paired with the right technology, intelligent in-house supply systems become possible. Entirely new business & supply chain models are on the horizon, and from streamlined logistics to customer-managed inventory and from shipping products to shipping designs 3D printing is coming.
Shrink the printer to tiny machines that build a product atom by atom and you have nanotechnology – a hybrid of engineering and chemistry. If realized, nanotechnology will impact supply chain management the way computers impacted information management. The result will be so thoroughly transformative the new won’t recognize the old. Even the idea of “raw materials” will be reformed. Once mature, manufacturing will be completely automated. Transportation and distribution may become obsolete. Nanotechnology may still be years away, but time to plan starts now. Manufacturing will be definitely faster, cheaper and more reliable.
Robots aren’t as farfetched as nanotechnology. We already use robots in manufacturing and distribution, but the robots of the past are bulky, expensive and limited. Now, robots with computer-screen faces and automated adaptability can perform multiple tasks, including materials handling, loading, unloading, product inspection, light assembly, sorting and packaging. A single robot costs less than a warehouse worker yearly wages. Tie these robots together with well-planned warehouses, advanced algorithms, and sophisticated software and you can wrap robotized warehouses into a bow that reduces cost, increases throughput, enhances capacity and improves accuracy.
Big Data and Analytics
You’ve undoubtedly heard how big data and analytics have shaken marketing funnels around the world, but you may not realize that it has similar if not greater possibilities for your supply chain. After all data is supply chain management best advisor. Big data can be the truly intelligent GPS system that can predict – and then avoid – delays. It can even eliminate losses from fraud and corruption by preventing mismanagement, while accommodating the growing demand for social responsibility and transparency. What would be better than producing exactly what we sell, and avoid the huge dollars of inventory waste sitting in warehouses? How many real jobs and new innovations are not actualised because of those trillions of dollars sitting in warehouses ?
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things will reach critical mass in a few years, bringing smart systems that will monitor the “health” of the entire supply chain. Physical assets will communicate their own state of being to an information-rich ecosystem, allowing for deeper market insights and improved distribution channels. Pervasive visibility will provide supply chain managers the ability to track products at every stage of the supply chain. New, proactive but accurate replenishment methodologies will make efficient inventory management affordably attainable. Predictive maintenance will provide self-diagnostics for equipment and components. By embedding software in physical products, an intelligent network will gain the power of life cycle management across the entirety of the supply chain.
The Power of Synergy
Few would have accurately forecasted innovations such as the smartphones revolution before the introduction of the Iphone or the mapping of the human genome. The technologies we have in front of us are even more impressive…But, as impressive as these technologies are individually, and as predictable their future evolution might look to us now, their true potential is found in the power of synergy. The supply chains of the future are undergoing a remarkable transformation and it’s coming faster than you may think.Understanding, insight and action are required. Now, not tomorrow. The future is now. Technological unemployment is at the corner and if we don’t act now it will hit harder than ever before.