Supply chain trends in technology are transforming the way business is conducted, and it will continue to evolve well into the future. There are several key supply chain trends to watch this year and going into 2019.

What is a supply chain? The answer to what is a supply chain is most simply put as the flow of a product from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of the final product. These are the top 15 supply chain trends for today and tomorrow:

Trend #1: Analytics and Analysis

The gathering of analytics and supply chain analysis of the data will continue to be of extreme importance. The information you acquire through supply chain analysis provides you with the ability to improve your products and services, as well as your operations, hiring practices, marketing campaigns and much more. The analysis of your supply chain analytics is essential to improving these aspects, as well as your supply chain marketing. You should be using analytics for both internal and external evaluation. Do not forget to use analytics to monitor your vendors, personnel and job performance. And, supply chain analytics will help you to streamline your entire operations from the purchasing of raw materials to the delivery of your final product.

Trend #2: Supply Chain Optimization Apps

The use of apps is yet another way supply chain technology is transforming business practices. Many of the best supply chain apps provide you with the ability to access real-time information to prevent delays and the loss of potentially millions of dollars annually. Businesses of all sizes are reaping the benefits because people at every level of the supply chain can see the existing state of products every step of the way. Whether it is a person on the floor waiting for a part or a driver waiting for a shipping container at the port of entry, everyone has the visibility and transparency of products at all times.

Trend #3: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI supply chain trends can be used in any number of ways for complete supply chain optimization. You can capitalize on artificial intelligence by using it to automate processes and procedures. The benefits of doing so are to eliminate human error, create efficiency and to save money by eliminating the need for human labor. AI technology has the ability to find patterns, better predict purchasing demands, eliminate redundancies and optimize inventory levels. The supply chain will benefit from improved purchasing practices and lower inventory levels, as well as improved supply chain marketing effectiveness.

Trend #4: Blockchain Roles in Supply Chain Optimization

Blockchain is one of the best supply chain tools available today. It is one of the best ways to protect data and information from being manipulated or edited. You are better protected from hackers and corporate espionage by using blockchain-driven networks and devices. This type of decentralized methodology also requires that all users within the network agree to any updates adding yet another layer of protection. Blockchain, as a supply chain technology, allows you to securely manage everything in one place from invoices and payments to contracts and tracking.

Trend #5: Business Events

Business events and systems events are gaining traction in the supply chain world. A business event is essentially any action that influences the direction of the business. This could be a highly common event such as the purchase of a product. However, it could also be more significant such as the credit limit of a customer being exceeded. These events will directly influence the assets, equity or liability of a business account. It is possible that an event can be an internal event that occurs within the company or an external event that occurs between two outside sources.

Trend #6: Content and SEO For Supply Chain Companies

Supply chain content is essential to customer acquisition and retention. It is estimated that the content industry will be worth $300 billion by 2019, according to marketingmag.com. The best content is original content rather than to republish a post or article that has already been featured elsewhere. You want to be sure to utilize all digital platforms from social media to blogs. It does not matter the area within the supply chain in which your business takes place. Content is essential to the success of any business today. Be sure your budget is large enough and that you carefully consider whether or not you outsource your content or if you hire someone to write permanently on staff.

Trend #7: Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce takes the conversation between a business and a customer or vendor to a new level. You can automate conversations and responses to allow your employees to spend more time on other aspects of their jobs. These conversations are developed through established rules and artificial intelligence. You will be able to provide faster responses to questions, as well as to be able to respond to all comments and questions without having to prioritize the level of urgency. You can currently use this type of conversational commerce in a variety of platforms such as Alexa, Telegram, SMS, Line, WeChat and more.

Trend #8: End Users Are Top Priority

Whether you use supply chain software or alternative supply chain tools, all applications must be able to benefit the end user in some way. The end user is the ultimate driver of all business decisions, and they will continue to hold the power for the foreseeable future. Make sure that all of the applications, software and other tools that can be accessed by the end user is the right price and easy to use. It is also important to ensure that all pages and applications load quickly and provide all services in one place to reduce unnecessary steps for maximum customer satisfaction.

Trend #9: Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has yet to infiltrate the supply chain from beginning to end; however, IoT is used in a number of ways throughout the supply chain process. Airplanes use IoT through sensors to provide real-time data as a way to improve supply chain efficiency. You can also use it throughout manufacturing and logistics processes, demand management, preventative maintenance and sourcing applications. And, you can minimize downtime, analyze customer behavior and react far more proactively to customer demands.

Trend #10: Information That Informs Logistic Decisions

The knowledge you acquire from data gathering is imperative to long-term sustainability. Supply chain analysis of such information will provide you with the opportunity to adapt and modify practices quickly and easily. You will be able to create efficiency and entirely unique supply chain practices to differentiate your business from competitors. This differentiation, when implemented properly, will provide you with a distinct competitive advantage to ensure you are using the right supply chain methodologies that are ideal for your business. The more you know about your supply chain and your supply chain practices the better off your operations and customer satisfaction levels will be in the end.

Trend #11: Robotic Processes Automation (RPA)

The overall goal of using RPA throughout the supply chain is to create value for various B2B initiatives. Despite the term robotic being used in the name, robotic processes automation is actually the use of software rather than an actual robot. The software allows various manual processes and tasks to be automated. The results of using such software often lead to fewer errors, faster completion times and a reduction in costs. RPA also prevents the need for a highly expensive and timely system integration projects or customized application developments.

Trend #12: Supply Chain Security

Security in the supply chain remains a critical component to a successful business. According to a recent Bloomberg report, Chinese spies had secretly installed microchips onto various technologies from companies such as Amazon and Apple. Security measures for these types of attacks can be made by carefully selecting your business partners, as well as to implement a rigid quality control process. Implement traffic monitoring. Only use secure and trusted platforms of communication. Use end-to-end encryption. You might also use tracking chips in products and materials to prevent theft, as well as to use drones to scout routes in dangerous regions of the world.

Trend #13: Supply Chain Software

Software supply chain trends are frequently changing from a one-time purchase to a subscription-based service. While you have to pay a monthly or annual fee to use the software, it is often less expensive and pricing is determined based on the number of users and features you wish to access. This type of software is highly advantageous in that you only pay for what you need, and it is easy to upgrade or downgrade at any time.

Trend #14: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

VR and AR are taking workplace productivity to new heights. Augmented reality allows people to free up their hands to better multitask, and it allows businesses to see the way in which a product or material might be used in a realistic setting before the actual implementation. Both AR and VR will be used to create mixed realities that create efficiency and save money. And, they will be used in both smart devices and head-mounted displays alike.

Trend #5: Wage Raises

Wage raises are reluctantly being pushed as the need for qualified supply chain professionals continues to increase due to the explosive growth in e-commerce. Supply chain management practices must shift to higher wages to eliminate these existing challenges. A significant driver shortage remains in effect, and it is expected that this shortage will continue until wages increase. The same is true of labor shortages in warehouses. As wages increase the demand for labor will decrease.

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