Integrated Digital Technology for an Agile Supply Chain

Written by Mickie Foong Mee Keat, ADLSM

by Mickie Foong Mee Keat, ADLSM

Integrated Digital Technology for an Agile Supply Chain

Written by Mickie Foong Mee Keat, ADLSM

by Mickie Foong Mee Keat, ADLSM

by Mickie Foong Mee Keat, ADLSM

Digital technology continues to drive corporations to reshape its logistics and supply chain. These companies are motivated to embrace the digital revolution, investing millions of dollars in these technologies.

Business Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity (VUCA)

In today’s VUCA world, corporate leaders instead of focusing on competition, have to make a shift move adopting a new strategy which is creating a strategic partnership in order to be sustainable, the need for business growth and be profitable. Technology is being used as a tool for seamless and closed-loop in the supply chain, with the combinatorial effects of digital technologies, it gives internal and external insight for strategic planning and process excellence.

Business Opportunity

Companies leveraging digital technologies to deliver significant value in customer personalization and customer experience. The surge of adopting Internet and Mobile Computing for global B2B and B2C e-commerce sales has resulted in an anytime, anywhere from any device mentality and buying behavior. According to E-consultancy and Adobe Annual Digital Trends report, customer experience came in first as the most exciting business opportunity for 2020, beating content marketing and mobile marketing. Customers would spend more for greater customer experience.
Giving the example is one of the first B2B company, W.W. Grainger Inc. generated a total e-commerce sales US$4.7 billion in 2016 by adopting of technology and Omni-Channel services in their e-commerce features with providing customer e-portal personalized content, web-rooming, real-time stock availability tracking, competitor cross reference, and online customer service support team.

Unified Commerce for Omni-Channel Experience

Investment in digital transformation plays an important role in responding to grab business opportunities from trend changes in customer demand. Unified Commerce is the next logical evolutionary step of the Omni-Channel approach. It requires digital technology and all customer engagement points, such as webpage, mobile, POS, call center combined into a single, centralized platform, enables seamless integration and creating a unified customer experience, all connected in real-time.

The benefit of the business model is to provide better customer experience, allows the customer to seamlessly move between channels without losing the overall experience of interacting with the brand. This way, confusion is eliminated, companies can meet the customer’s needs faster and more accurate. It offers convenience to customer reach to the company customer service team to solve their problem faster, generating higher satisfaction and loyalty.

Similarly, the company is able to capture customer interaction and leverage these purchasing behavior insights to build an optimal strategy. The organization would create a customer innovation center by adopting Virtual Reality and 3D hologram technology to showcase company product portfolio, it created a “look and feel” environment improving customer buying journey. The Center provides value-added services to customers experimenting and co-develop custom solutions according to their needs. Another objective is to express the brand through an informative and interactive process; exploring the customer’s needs, expectations and behaviors.

Seamless Integration

Artificial Intelligent performance is improved with the development of Advanced Analytics, Big Data and Block Chain. Control tower integrates with these digital technologies to provide seamless supply chain activities in sales and operation planning, procurement, inventory management, order fulfillment and transportation. It is a cross-channel platform shared between suppliers, manufacturers and logistics providers, synchronize digital device, process and people with real-time data, giving end to end visibility, customer information sharing.

Data from internal and external sources collected in Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) such as transport tracking devices, RFID, smart sensors, the smart module is being processed into the supply chain control tower. The data information can be from the weather reports, traffic, global news, social media and customer buying history. Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics analyze these data, perform simulation, allowing various levels of strategy optimization such as route network improvements and carrier performance reviews, eventually, Machine Learning Algorithms will offer mitigation advice and store as a reference case.

Block Chain integrates with the machine-to-machine application (IoTA) to automate commercial processes, such as initiate billing invoice as soon the goods delivered to the right place. By sharing data including shipment data, location data, digital document on a block-chain based system, the technology can reduce delay and fraud, improve traceability and transparency in global trade.

Flexible and Secure Digital Infrastructure

Wireless solution – 5G, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 is the key enablers that can support greater data traffic, increase speed accessing to internet and consistent communication. When the digital network tailored with Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), it leverages Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in IT devices/assets, harness the mobility advantages for the digital workplace or being remote collaboration. For example, supporting communicate between Machine-to-Machine (M2M), automating remote control of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) cooperate by working in swarms.

The implications of digital ecosystems connecting with supply chain partners and customer require a secure, adaptive technology infrastructure against cyberattacks. A weak digital infrastructure making these supply chain partner vulnerable to risk in term of disruption or damage to the reputation, financial losses and loss of intellectual property, business and customer information. This entails adopting Cloud Computing, embracing Agile/DevOps methodologies for continuous system improvement and stability in close alignment with business objectives.

Synchronization Warehousing and Logistics

Customers want speed, reliability, traceability and convenience in delivery. Warehousing and Logistics are critical for meeting this expectation. Cognitive Robotics Process Automation increases process efficiency and quality in complex warehousing and fulfillment. Started from Analytics-driven demand sensing or sensor-driven replenishment, sending signal to factory to allocate inventory for fulfillment.

The packed cargo/package installed with the Machine-to-Machine module track it location with GPS tracking system along shipment journey to destination warehouse/ distribution center. After port clearance, an Intelligent driverless delivery truck will be used to transport the package, communicate their position and arrival time with an intelligent warehouse which will automate the warehousing system optimizing just in time delivery. During inbound, Payload Robotic or Robotic Truck automated to unload, de-palletize and uses its laser to scan all the packages, RFID sensors will send the goods information across the supply chain. Central system continues to sync the process automate intralogistics, transfer packages via material handling equipment to storage. All these processes are being monitored by the logistic operator via Human Machine Interface from the logistic control tower.

In addition to enhanced intralogistics, mobile robot and inventory drone driven by Machine Learning Algorithms and sensor technology, can intelligent sense the warehouse environment, navigate warehouse route, automatically conduct inventory cycle counting and back to own docking station during off peak period. While cobots are trained to work with warehouse personnel for picking, packing, sorting and packing, cobots can sense and feel – to keeps humans safe and out of harm’s way through a connected workforce concept.

Augmented Reality with advanced computer vision integrated on the wearable devices, it provides new perspective in warehouse operation by improving accuracy and quality of operations. Warehouse personnel use mobile and tablet device to perform inspection of outbound or returned goods, the capability of 3D visual and deep learning able to detect, identify the defected items.

Another step-in process automation is last-mile delivery, the most common use transport is autonomous vehicles. The driverless vehicles are known as robo-pods, it has multiple pods and powered with electric. The fleet of robo-pods depend on mapping software and short range radar to navigate surroundings, it either follow each other by platooning or can be move in a single pod. Each pod can carry different types of goods and customized to have its own paymaster machine, customer data and delivery place. Sensors installed inside will help fleet operators assess package condition and determine maintenance requirements.

The robo-pods can offer the customer a flexible and adaptive logistics service – to expedite delivery or on-demand delivery services. For small parcel delivery, it is often a major accelerator of costs in the logistics chain due to meeting customer expectations on same day and door-to-door delivery. The most preferable transport is autonomous delivery robot navigate their way to the address. They’re able to cross the road and work their way around obstacles thanks to ultrasonic sensors, cameras, radar and GPS. Customers unlock the robot using a personal code they receive through the app. Another future choice is using aerial delivery drones providing rapid package delivery from the sky onto customers’ front homes.

Conclusion

Digitalizing supply chains and logistics is not about to plug and play single technology onto it. It is about to redevelop business strategy, restructure business function, process and people, determine appropriate digital technology for best support of business objective and being adaptive to organization’s future development plan. The real goal is to become a leading industry expert among the peer, and is a key differentiator to gain a competitive advantage.


References

DHL Trend Research. (2015). “Omni-Channel Logistics”. Retrieved from: https://www.mydhl.dhl.com/content/dam/downloads/g0/about_us/logistics_insights/dhl_trendreport_omnichannel.pdf, accessed on 06/09/2019.

George Perry. (2019). “Building your omni-channel toll-free strategy”. Retrieved from: https://www.bandwidth.com/blog/building-your-omni-channel-toll-free-strategy/, accessed on 06/09/2019.

Gina Chung, Ben Gesing, Keya Chaturvedi, Dr. Philipp Bodenbenner. (2018/2019). “Logistics Trend Radar”. Retrieved from: https://www.logistics.dhl/content/dam/dhl/global/core/documents/pdf/glo-core-trend-radar-widescreen.pdf, accessed on 05/09/2019.

Michael Bourlakis, Denyse Julien and Imran Ali. (2018). “The Next Industrial Revolution”. Retrieved from: https://www.logistics.dhl/content/dam/dhl/local/global/core/documents/pdf/g0-core-whitepaper-dhl-b2be-commerce-en.pdf, accessed on 06/09/2019.

Michael Eng, ADLSM. (2018). “Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence for Effective Logistics”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/data-analytics-artificial-intelligence-effective-logistics, accessed on 05/09/2019.

Michelle Lee Ean Wei, ADPSM. (2019). “New Technologies that will Impact Future Supply Chains”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/new-technologies-impact-future-supply-chains, accessed on 06/09/2019.

Stefan Schrauf and Philipp Berttram. (2016). “Industry 4.0 How digitization makes the supply chain more efficient, agile, and customer-focused”. Retrieved from: https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/gx/en/reports/industry40.pdf, accessed on 06/09/2019.

About the Author: Mickie Foong has substantive experience in the field of marine & offshore engineering, as well as the Food & Beverage sector, and specifically in project coordination involving logistics, purchasing, trade financing, and digitalization project. Mickie is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). She holds an Advanced Diploma in International Business as well as the SIPMM Professional Diploma in Purchasing Management (PDPM). She completed the Advanced Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management (ADLSM) in October 2019 at SIPMM Institute.

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