What does 2022 have in store for supply chains? Considering how much the landscape of logistics has changed over the past couple of years, the answer is unclear. We have seen everything from shortages in medical supplies and computer chips, to unfortunate shipping events and overwhelmed container ports. Recent demands, such as the growth of ecommerce, also offer a set of fresh new challenges.
On the upside, awareness and respect for supply chains is growing, along with investments into supply chain technology. What these crises have exposed is a need for more resilience and connectivity. Below are some of the most promising technological trends that are paving the way forward in 2022.
Improving work capacity: Autonomous vehicles and advanced robotics
Autonomous vehicles and robots in the supply chain offer one main advantage: the ability to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Beyond that, warehouse automation also means reducing risk to humans in dangerous environments and improving speed and accuracy. Not to mention, because robots can see in the dark, it can even mean lowering the light bill!
In transportation, autonomous vehicles such as driverless cars, drones, and delivery robots offer the most potential during the first mile and last mile, reducing human error and time spent during route planning.
Improving speed: Network and transport infrastructure
Every successful carrier depends on their ability to act and react quickly. 5G networks offer faster speeds to all supply chain communication, but also create possibilities for connected services or the Internet of Things (IoT). Improvements in internet reliability, speed and energy-efficiency will enable rapid connectivity between devices and offer unique opportunities for real-time location and condition tracking. As a result: greatly enhanced supply chain visibility.
For transportation infrastructure, hyperloop technology suggests the possibility of ultra-fast transportation along high-traffic inland routes. This could drastically change connections between ports and their hinterland, as well as between commercial and industrial centres.
Optimising coordination: Advanced analytics, AI and Digital Supply Chain Twins
Speed and work capacity are not an advantage if they aren’t used effectively. Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence are offering businesses the data they need to better understand their operations end-to-end. This helps them make more informed decisions. A Digital Supply Chain Twin (DSCT) is one variation of this analytics system, where a supply chain is completely simulated in a virtual environment.
Optimising a supply chain also needs to consider the role of people. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) seem to provide a unique opportunity in this regard. When it comes to improving the navigation and maintenance of warehouses as well as workplace training and crisis simulations, VR and AR may be the solution.consequences.
Reducing waste: Electric vehicles, alternative fuels and 3D-printing
While electric vehicles and alternative fuels are important paths to reducing emissions, other technologies stand out for reinventing what it means to be eco-friendly. One of the biggest sources of waste is over-production. On-demand manufacturing, where only purchased items are produced, could drastically reduce the demands on inventory levels and minimise production waste. Technologies such as 3D-printing may help us get closer to achieving on-demand manufacturing.consequences.
Choosing the right technology
While there are many new and upcoming technologies for supply chains, it is clear that they all have a similar goal: building resilience. Faced by several new challenges, logistics managers have realized the need for more adaptability and visibility in their supply chains, and they will look for tools to help improve work capacity, speed, efficiency and sustainability.
A real-time tracking solution such as Visilion from Sony incorporates a unique combination of advanced tracking and network technologies to help optimise supply chains and increase visibility – creating faster, more efficient and less wasteful logistics operations.
The future of supply chain technology seems wide open with possibilities. Do you want to learn more about the implementation of technology within logistics, the future of real-time tracking and visibility solutions such as Visilion and the role of visibility during periods of supply chain crisis? Listen to Erik Lund, Head of Tracking Division, Visilion, in his interview with the digital supply chain magazine The Logistics Point.
*The drone depicted in the above image is not a product offered by Sony.