Supply chains have undergone significant evolution over the past 10 years. As we entered a new decade at the start of 2020 all that looked set to change even further in the coming years. As the industry has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new future has begun to emerge there are some key supply chain trends that remain spotlighted for 2020 and beyond.
- Blockchain. This technology has become much more accessible and widespread and looks set to embed deeply into supply chains as 2020 progresses. Blockchain uses cryptography to link together records or “blocks.” It has many advantages for supply chains, including greater transparency and reducing the risk of fraud.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI). Another technology that has been on the table for some time but previously limited to businesses with significant resources, AI is now much more widely available. More than a third of businesses had implemented AI technology by the end of 2019 according to a Gartner report. AI has the potential to impact the supply chain in a number of different ways, including predicting demand patterns and analysing large data sets. Combined with machine learning, AI could also be the solution to helping meet customer demand for free and faster delivery, especially given the current pressures on logistics networks. Both in terms of handling change and crisis and also optimising resources, AI could be a key tool for supply chain businesses keen to do more in 2020.
- Autonomous tech. The use of autonomous technology is not just limited to sci-fi-like robots although robotic and autonomous vehicles are beginning to make a far greater impact on warehouses around the world. Autonomous tech has the potential to impact broadly, from improving picking processes to introducing automated storage and retrieval systems. One report identified that manual picking fell from 76% to 72% in 2019, which indicates that the use of autonomous tech is on the rise.
- 5G. There has been plenty of controversy surrounding 5G, from the conspiracy theories connecting it to COVID-19 to the length of time required for roll out. When the entire country has access to 5G there will be many benefits from the faster upload and download speeds that it will enable and the way it will deliver more efficient communication between wireless devices. 5G will make it much easier to implement technology in warehouses, for example, to increase the number of devices on a network and ensure real time communication and data transfer.
- The Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will also enable another key trend for 2020 – the IoT. Technologies associated with this can be used to improve supply chain visibility as well as key processes such as inventory management. IoT will make it easier to gather real time data that can be used for everything, from better customer service to boosting overall supply chain efficiency.
These key supply chain trends have the potential to be transformative in 2020 and offer a wealth of positive opportunities for those enterprises that invest in them.