woman scanning barcode in a warehouse

Top Retail Trends in Supply Chain Management

As we move forward into 2019, it is only fitting to look at the latest trends in supply chain management. The supply chain is the backbone of e-commerce and in today’s age, it is more diversified than ever before. New technological innovations are being introduced in an effort to dilute this complexity. The supply chain is changing from being technologically enabled to being technologically driven. The high complexity of online markets, as well as the ever-changing and increasing customer demands, requires proactive stances from retailers. Here are some trends that you should consider in your supply chain to stay ahead of your competition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is the technology of the future. A wide array of self-learning algorithms are available in the market today. Huge amounts of data are generated, analyzed, linked and patterned by data scientists. With machine learning operating on this big data, decisive knowledge can be derived from it, regardless of the amount of data. AI also has multiple applications in the supply chain. Logistical coordination and organization in warehouses is being driven by intelligent and autonomous technology such as drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles. Chatbots can also be a function of logistics, for example, they can be programmed to give information such as "Your package has just been shipped", or "your order is going to be delayed". Zion Market Research published a report stating that global AI in supply chain management is estimated to cross 6,548 million USD by the year 2024. AI is an all-encompassing solution that will fundamentally revolutionize and influence the future of the supply chain.

Immersive Technologies

In the supply chain, the use of augmented, virtual or mixed realities isn’t a novelty anymore. Augmented Reality (AR) offers various assistive technologies that facilitate the employees in their day to day work. Hands-free picking aided by AR could take care of simple picking tasks. Employees wearing smart glasses enhanced by AR can immediately view barcode data on the screen and improve their productivity. Tasks in the future of the supply chain could be significantly simplified using smart glasses, displays and simulators. From the customer’s vantage, AR makes virtual trial and test of products possible without the need for actual physical products. This customer behavior could impact the supply chain in the long run with fewer products being kept at store locations and speedy shipping from larger storages in warehouses. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies with 25% having deployed them in production.

3D Printing

This technology has found its way into almost every imaginable industry and continues to provide limitless opportunities. 3D printing is not only used for prototypes and small series products but is being utilized in mass production of items such as car parts. The advantages of 3D printing will be even better utilized in the future. 3D-printed parts can be manufactured easily, at a cheaper cost and without compromising on quality; these factors make it especially attractive for the production of cost-intensive individual parts required in the aerospace industry, for example. Ever since its introduction, 3D printing has been evolving and improving, which makes it a viable addition to the supply chain of the future. 3D printing can not only meet rising customer requirements but also significantly shorten the supply chain. With the possibility of faster prototyping and reduced cost of production, the applications are endless, particularly in the field of consumer goods and medical care. 

These are only some of the trends that you can keep in mind while upgrading your supply chain. Artificial intelligence currently holds the highest potential as it is being rapidly innovated and integrated into every aspect of e-commerce. 3D printing and Immersive Technologies have their own upsides and will only help shape the efficiency and ramp up the dynamics of the future supply chain. Keeping up with these trends will give you a significant edge over the competition and assure lasting viability in the market.

Read more about how leveraging AI could improve supply chain efficiency for Grocery Retailers.

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