October 9, 2022, 10:45 AM IST Debarshi Dutta in Voices, India, TOI

Amidst increasing globalization, increased product complexity, and heightened customer demands, forward-thinking companies are taking up advanced technologies to transform their supply chain from a pure operations hub into the epicenter of business innovation.

With the outbreak of a global pandemic like COVID-19 exposed existing challenges across business operations and pushed organizations’ ability to adapt to dramatic shifts in supply and demand. In many cases, driven by necessity, companies used this period to increase overall investment in digital supply chain technologies and replace legacy platforms. The food supply chain became one of the earliest adopters of technological advancements in the industry owing to specific challenges like low shelf life.

By harnessing the combination of technologies such as AI and data analytics, online brands realized that they could automate warehouse operations, improve delivery times, proactively manage inventory, optimize strategic sourcing relationships, and create new customer experiences that increase satisfaction and boost sales.

While with traditional logistics, supply chains once lacked knowledge across operations due to a disconnection between upstream and downstream activities. This resulted in major discrepancies in inventory reconciliation, which made it challenging to ensure there was enough stock available to meet demand. But emerging supply chain technologies have provided a full overview of inventory trends and data across a supply chain network to make better decisions on not just how much inventory to reorder and when, but also where to store certain items based on demand and what channels to sell through based on performance. Artificial intelligence applications can automatically trace performance problems to their root causes, and even predict declines, and then recommend corrective measures to managers.

Not just that, but the ability to monitor assets throughout the logistics journey also helps eliminate misplaced inventory and lost shipments, further reducing risk and revenue loss. This helps with better inventory management and prevents shipment recalls. Without the help of technology, it’s hard to maintain a higher order accuracy rate, especially in the case of the eCommerce supply chain which is constantly moving, and inventory levels and demand shift frequently.

But advances in supply chain technology continue to cut out time-consuming, manual tasks that are prone to human error. For instance, warehouse robotics are designed to minimize mistakes by picking, packing, and sorting orders based on accurate data.

In the foreseeable future, the manpower for existing operations will see a significant decline as more and more operations will be optimized. Consider automated shipping which will take the complexity out of shipping by automatically putting customer orders that need to be fulfilled in a queue and eliminating some of the manual tasks involved.

As we move into 2022, we can expect to witness companies move from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive’ mode, with priorities moving away from managing risk and disruption and towards boosting future growth. To achieve this, companies will require digital technology to build new capabilities around improving the consumer experience, harnessing the power of the full supply chain ecosystem by improving interconnectivity across customers, partners, and suppliers.

Bottom line:

While there’s still a huge learning curve with some of the more advanced technologies, there’s no question that the supply chain is in the midst of a high-stakes makeover. A growing economy like India with growing aspirations needs to reassess how its logistics activities are executed and technologies are leveraged.

The government of India in its working paper for the National Logistics Policy has envisioned supply chains driving growth and competitiveness through an integrated, seamless, sustainable, and efficient network. As the country looks to standardize the physical and data exchange infrastructures in the logistics space, it is up to private enterprises to leverage transportation platforms to build their logistics functions into strategic differentiators and improve efficiencies through transport optimization both across their network and in industry and cross-industry level benefiting themselves and helping India transform into a supply chain powerhouse.

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