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What are some best practices for crafting a supply chain technology strategy?

Supply chain managers have a tough job and face many challenges. Technology can help but must also be approached with return on investment top of mind. Here are three tips that can help.

Creating a supply chain technology strategy can be overwhelming.

Supply chains are awash in new technology offerings, and many are already implemented at different points and to different degrees. While most may be performing as expected, some of them can be used to deliver higher levels of performance and additional benefits to the enterprise. Supply chain managers need a way to view their current population of tech and focus on the few that promise to deliver advantages.

To that end, here are three best practices that can help supply chain managers craft a better supply chain technology strategy.

Coordinate among data resources, experts and management

Many supply chain technologies are already in place, but that doesn't mean they are being used to their best advantage. For example, IoT devices embedded in transport vehicles may be letting warehouse operators know the condition and location of products. Yet, if product engineers were included in the reports, they may be able to modify the design attributes of products to better withstand real-world conditions. As another example, supply chain technology can be used to alert logistics managers to temperature issues. And when temperatures exceed product conditions for too long, logistics managers can inform drivers. But a more permanent resolution -- using the appropriate supply chain technologies and involving product design, warehouse location, shipping dates and planning or other decisions beyond the scope of logistics -- could deliver more permanent and sustainable supply chain solutions. Indeed, consider expanding the reach of supply chain technology to as many areas of the enterprise as possible.

Consider analytics and AI to optimize a high volume of unstructured data

Supply chain managers need to deal with the always increasing volumes of data being generated by order transactions, IoT devices and ERP. But unstructured data is becoming more and more important. Making sense of these data assets goes beyond the time and capacity of human attention but is perfectly suited to analytics driven by AI.

AI can learn to assimilate wide varieties of information from an array of sources in many formats and can then present findings and recommendations for improvement. Managers should be looking for ways to feed data from all the technology in their supply chain to analytical engines equipped with AI and fine-tune their abilities.

Explore supply chain technology options and their applications

Gartner identified eight supply chain technology trends, but there are iterations within each category. Supply chain managers must make a concerted effort to keep up with developments in every segment, but they need to go farther than just thinking about possible applications. They should select the most promising and experiment with pilot projects to explore bigger implications and possible advances they can gain. The combinations of technologies any one manager might develop are likely to be unique and possibly bring competitive advantages.

Supply chain managers constantly face challenges meeting the varying demands of their business and bring new technologies to the table in pursuit of solutions. Companies that maximize their combination of tech will gain the most from each of their individual investments and will create unique solutions that put them ahead of their competitors.

This was last published in August 2018

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