As 2017 sails into the sunset it’s that time of year when analysts around the world release their predictions for the following year. I thought it would be interesting to pull together a set of supply chain related predictions from the OpenText™ Business Network product marketing team.
Trying to predict what will happen in 2018 is not going to be easy, however with some careful analysis of what happened in 2017, combined with industry trends and insights from customer meetings, our team is pleased to offer the following predictions, enjoy!
- Cloud-based fax services will see exponential growth in adoption – cloud-based fax services will continue to round out the communications method for the outer fringe of a trading partner community. Gartner recently announced that cloud fax services is on the ‘Hype Cycle Slope of Enlightenment’ with demand expected to significantly increase over the next 2 years as a method of secure information exchange. Find out more in this blog.
- B2B integration becomes more pervasive across SMB companies – as large companies continue to digitize their end-to-end supply chain, they will increasingly expect small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) to exchange business documents electronically, as a condition of doing business. Many companies have historically struggled to digitally enable 100% of a trading partner community. However, with the introduction of new disruptive digital technologies across the supply chain in 2018, SMBs will be under increased pressure to move away from paper and exchange business documents electronically with their customers. For this reason, SMBs will explore the use of simple to use, cloud-based B2B integration solutions in 2018, providing SMBs with the flexibility to support any customer as well as the scalability to grow their B2B platform as their business grows. Find out more this blog.
- Blockchain starts to be embraced across the supply chain – 2017 was a year of blockchain speculation, pre-announcements, partnerships and pilots in the supply chain. Examples include: supply chain finance, food track and trace (for both authenticity and food safety), shipping container tracking (most blockchains for tracking also include using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help automate tracking) and tracking raw materials from point of origin to prove absence of conflict minerals or use of slave labor. Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Strategy, 2017 forecasts that the plateau of productivity will not occur for 10 or more years. Gartner sees ‘Blockchain in the supply chain’ on the rising slope of expectations for the technology and the peak of inflated expectations hasn’t been reached yet. In 2018 we’ll start to see pilot projects begin to show success (and a few failures) as companies learn how to best implement this technology and make it accessible. Find out more in this blog.
- Artificial Intelligence re-engineers the procurement function – the use of artificial intelligence across the procurement function is expected to grow exponentially in 2018 as companies look to optimize purchasing activities and reduce costs. Many companies have been accumulating rich pools of data over the years, for example from point of sale data and loyalty card schemes and even customer sentiment from social media feeds. The introduction of artificial intelligence technologies will allow companies to put this data to work. In 2018, artificial intelligence will change the way many companies buy goods and services and it will also help to optimize procurement activities to align more tightly with customer and market demand. Examples include: automating purchasing/replenishment of certain types of goods, detecting fraud in the supply chain to reduce costs and risk, increasing forecast accuracy for use of goods in manufacturing or sales of good in retail, recommending where to ship and warehouse goods to minimize costs, including purchase costs, shipping costs, and carrying costs.
- Logistics and transportation providers leverage more intelligent connected vehicle technologies – there are a number of key trends in the consumer driven automotive market, (eg electrification, connectivity, shared mobility and autonomous vehicles), that will start to appear in commercial vehicles supporting the logistics and transportation sector in 2018. The limited range of today’s generation of battery cells has prevented the commercial vehicle sector from introducing electric vehicle fleets however the expected growth in battery cell research in 2018 will see larger commercial vehicle being electrified. Tesla recently announced an electric semi-truck, and other commercial vehicle manufacturers will introduce new electric trucks during the latter half of 2018 as part of a growing trend to develop more sustainable logistics networks. The growth in connected vehicle technology across the commercial vehicle sector in 2018, primarily driven by logistics carriers such as UPS, DHL and FEDEX, is expected to transform supply chain operations as companies continue to look for ways to improve end to end visibility of shipments moving across the supply chain.
- Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions will help to secure the end to end supply chain – increasing security concerns across the end to end supply chain, eg providing secure external access to internal enterprise resources such as ERP and WMS, will drive an increased need in 2018 for IAM solutions. In fact, Gartner estimates that the IAM market will grow by nearly 10% in 2018 to $4.7 billion. As more companies start to adopt cloud-based B2B networks and establish a single digital backbone to connect external trading partners to internal enterprise resources, there will be an increasing need to re-evaluate secure access to these resources, especially supply chain assets connected to IoT platforms. Being able to secure IoT endpoints across the supply chain will drive further adoption of IAM solutions in 2018 as companies look to secure their digital eco-systems.
- Introduction of GDPR in the EU will place an increased focus on improving the management of trading partner information – the introduction of GDPR in Europe in 2018 will force companies to rethink how they use and manage personal data across their supply chains. The ‘right to be forgotten’ will impact how the contact information of trading partners is managed and all supply chain related applications accessing personal data such as name, email address and telephone numbers will have to be reviewed to ensure compliance with the regulations. This could indirectly drive exponential growth in adoption of IAM solutions in the first half of 2018, discussed earlier, to safeguard ‘selected’ contact data provided by external trading partners across the supply chain.
- Every company will be looking to introduce a digital backbone to support their supply chain operations – the introduction of new disruptive digital technologies is driving a need to modernize backend network infrastructures. The acceleration in adoption of IoT, wearable devices, and machine learning in 2018 will drive companies to consolidate and modernize existing network infrastructures onto a single digital backbone which will connect external stakeholders to internal enterprise resources. The digital backbone will leverage the cloud and allow anyone in the extended enterprise to be able to access, manage and exchange information securely between parties.
- Augmented Reality technology will transform supply chain operations – the continued advancements in wearable device technology will transform certain aspects of the supply chain during 2018. Two immediate areas for expansion in 2018 include warehouse and logistics operations and aftermarket field service and support. The increasing number of sensors fitted to products in 2018 will blur the line between the physical and 3D ‘digital twin’ and we will also see an increased focus on being able to securely exchange information from the connected devices. The ability to leverage the 3D digital twin relating to either the design of a product, factory or distribution environment will allow employees to engage with enterprise resources like never before in 2018. 2017 saw a number of companies experiment with Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens on the shop floor and these technologies will continue to support the concept of the smart factory in 2018. With increased connectivity across the supply chain, namely through IoT devices, augmented reality technologies will start to be applied to supply chain simulation activities and utilize machine learning to run ‘what if’ scenarios when modelling transaction flows. Augmented reality will potentially bring these simulations to life and allow supply chain transactions to be reviewed in an entirely different way.
- Emergence of the ‘autonomous supply chain’ – the convergence of key disruptive technologies such as machine learning, Blockchain and the IoT will see the emergence of the ‘Autonomous Supply Chain’ in 2018. The ability for a supply chain to become almost self-governing and to be able to respond to situations based on real time inputs from connected IoT devices will transform how companies optimize their supply chains during 2018. Taken individually, machine learning, IoT and Blockchain are interesting technologies but when combined together they stand to transform how supply chains will operate in the future. We will explore more on this concept in early 2018.