How IoT, AI and blockchain will enable tomorrow’s autonomous supply chain

One of the fastest growing technology areas in the automotive industry relates to autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. The word autonomous has been associated with the automotive industry for a few years however it is now starting to find its way into the supply chain as well. The supply chain has been impacted by numerous disruptive technologies in recent years, AI, IoT, wearable devices, drones and now blockchain. As I shared in a previous article, AI, IoT and Blockchain will create real change across the enterprise in 2019.

Autonomous Supply Chain

Many vendors and analysts have considered these technologies individually when it comes to the supply chain. However, the real value is when you start combining some of these technologies together. Even though the word autonomous has been closely associated with AI, from a supply chain point of view, we believe that when you combine AI with IoT and blockchain together, you can develop a supply chain platform that is more intelligent, connected and trusted in how it operates.

We have recently completed a new video to help discuss the concept of the Autonomous Supply Chain. Take a look below:

Many companies will be leveraging all three of these technologies and not realizing that they are in effect enabling their own autonomous supply chain. To maximize the return on the investment of these technologies, it’s important to have a digital foundation in place. No matter how appealing these technologies, are if you cannot exchange information electronically with an external digital ecosystem then it is going to be difficult to obtain maximum ROI.

Digital Business Ecosystems

Ensure that information being exchanged across a trading partner community is in electronic format. Companies struggle to ensure that 100% of trading partners are exchanging information electronically. This can be achieved by connecting all trading partners, irrespective of size or technical capability, to the same business network. This helps to ensure that B2B transactions are being exchanged seamlessly and, more importantly, this information can be leveraged in downstream analytics or AI platforms. Establishing the digital backbone or digital foundation should be job number one for any digital transformation project.

Internet of Things

Establishing a digital representation or digital twin of a product, piece of equipment or even production line should also be on a company’s agenda. IoT sensor information can be leveraged to not only identify where a shipment is, anywhere across a global supply chain, but also to monitor its condition (for example, measuring temperature and humidity). IoT stands to transform many supply chain processes, from improving replenishment processes to improving the uptime and availability of serviceable assets such as commercial vehicle fleets and production line equipment such as robots.

Artificial Intelligence

Deriving insights relating to supply chain performance is a key goal for many companies. Leveraging analytics to determine the best performing trading partner or understand how many purchase orders have been processed within a specific time frame will help companies to optimize and improve their supply chain operations. But what if you could feed IoT sensor information into an AI platform to help take decision making to the next level? Taking sensor data from a digital twin of a physical product and feeding into an AI platform will help to determine the ‘likely’ future operating performance of the product.

Blockchain

Although this is a very over-hyped technology, companies are starting to explore this technology across their supply chain operations, albeit on relatively small proof of concepts. During 2018 a number of industry alliances and associations were formed to explore how the technology could be used across an industry sector such as logistics. For example, the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) was established to identify a common way for logistics carriers to leverage the technology. I have attended around twenty customer meetings over the past 18 months and I was asked for my point of view on blockchain technology. Most use cases for the technology relate to supply chain track and trace, or knowing the provenance of where for example raw minerals were sourced from and which final products they ended up in. Blockchain offers some unique capabilities, including being a non-tamper proof record of information – information that could include a mix of B2B transaction information and IoT sensor data.

The introduction of these relatively new technologies mirrors what happened in 2010 when cloud, mobile and Big Data entered the market. Some analysts believe that blockchain will take a few years before it sees broader adoption. One of the challenges that the technology faces in relation to mass market adoption is simply educating the market on what the technology is and why companies should even be considering it. OpenText™ is keeping an arm’s length approach to blockchain, keeping up-to-date with trends, and learning about new use cases so that we have a point of view on how the technology could impact tomorrow’s supply chain.

As highlighted earlier, blockchain technology by itself is interesting, but combining it with other disruptive technologies makes blockchain more acceptable to the market. It has taken nearly ten years for cloud-based technologies to be commoditized and we would expect this new generation of disruptive technologies, especially blockchain, to follow a similar adoption curve over the next few years.

Learn more

Over the past few months we have pulled together some new white papers, including this paper entitled “How intelligent business networks will empower tomorrow’s autonomous supply chains” which provides a high-level overview of how AI, IoT and Blockchain can enable the autonomous supply chain. For deeper insights,  please download a copy of “The supply chain gets smarter.”

Are you ready for the Intelligent and Connected Enterprise? Join us at OpenText™ Enterprise World 2019 to hear how we’re enabling the Intelligent and Connected Enterprise with AI and the Internet of Things.

 

Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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