Report Highlights Top Technologies Enabling the ‘Always-On’ Supply Chain

always-on supply chain xiaoliangge/Adobe Stock

A new report from Deloitte and MHI identified the eight technologies enabling today’s “always-on supply chain” where supply networks continuously share information and analytics. These technologies, including widely used ones such as robotics, sensors and inventory optimization tools, can now provide a competitive advantage for companies, and in time, they will also become essential for business survival.

The top eight technologies identified in the report are:

  1. Predictive analytics
  2. Robotics and automation
  3. Sensors and automatic identification
  4. Wearable and mobile technology
  5. Driverless vehicles and drones
  6. Inventory and network optimization tools
  7. Cloud computing and storage
  8. 3-D printing

Of the nearly 900 industry professionals MHI and Deloitte surveyed for the 2016 MHI Annual Industry Report, 83% of them said they believe at least one of these technologies could provide a competitive advantage for their company or be a source of disruption for supply chains in the next decade.

Cloud computing and storage technology is at the moment the most widely adopted technology of the bunch, with 45% reporting using these tools. Sensors and automatic identification came in second, with an adoption rate today of 44%. Inventory and network optimization tools are in use by 43% of organizations as well. These inventory tools, however, ranked at the top among survey participants for the technology their company would most likely introduce to their supply chains within the next six years or so. Ninety percent said their supply chain would be using inventory and network optimization tools in six or more years.

Other technologies that ranked highly for future adoption were sensors, with 87% saying they would apply them to their supply chain in six or more years, and a continued growth of cloud computing and storage technology, with 86% pointing to its growing use in the supply chain over the same period of time.

Every one of the eight technologies identified in the report had forecasted increasing adoption rates throughout the next decade, showing how supply chain professionals see technology as a value-add to their organizations. The report also shows companies are increasingly investing in innovative technologies, with 52% of responding companies spending more than $1 million on technology. That is up from 49% last year.

However, supply chain organizations are still struggling to get their companies to invest in innovative technology. The report showed 43% of survey respondents said the main barrier to investment in supply chain innovation was the lack of a clear business case. This is up, too, from 2014, when 37% said they struggled to make a business case to justify tech investments.

Other barriers to adoption included a lack of adequate talent to use the available technologies, identified by 38% of respondents. Thirty-five percent also pointed to a cultural aversion to risk as a barrier.

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