Opinion

Supply chains must be powered by technology

Gopikrishnan Konnanath | Updated on August 19, 2020

The post-Covid era will be that of touchless, transparent, collaborative, and highly automated supply chains

Covid-19 has an unprecedented impact on economy, communities, and people’s lives. With no vaccine or cure in immediate sight, the world is slowly and cautiously moving towards a new normal dominated by virtualisation and social distancing. Companies are gradually shifting from utilising a crisis management response to employing organised and disruptive supply chain models.

In this new normal, it is imperative enterprises comprehend the role of technology and stay resilient to meet customer demands to serve and survive. In short, it is the supply chain that brings out the differentiators to the end-customer in this fast-evolving world.

Supply chain resilience

The lockdown has severely impacted the material flow, which induced major disruptions in the supply chains. As people prefer to stay at home, the significant shortage of manpower has curtailed assembly lines and logistics operations. This has set the stage to simplify and make supply chain agile and resilient to survive. An agile supply chain will enable companies operate more responsively to demand changes with production flexibility. Resilience on the other hand will prepare the supply chain to bounce back from disruption and remain competitive while focussing on employee safety and health-oriented aspects.

These tough times have forced companies to proactively sense-analyse-decide and then respond as a supply chain function. This will be the blueprint for supply chain processes after the pandemic, and the core capability of a live enterprise that exists in a connected, interdependent world. The new normal and the redefined post Covid-19 era is that of a touchless, transparent, collaborative, and highly automated supply chain.

The pandemic has brought to fore principles that were driving the optimised supply chain yesterday are no longer valid today. In the new normal, we must transition to a new model of technologically savvy supply chains with rapid digitisation to fuel growth. This will be aided by technologies and specialists that will make these happen. It’s all about gearing up for tomorrow with learnings from yesterday and today.

Technology and the future

It is the enablement of technology which can help us thrive now and in the post-pandemic world. Technology like Digital Twin will help manufacturing companies move towards a digital enablement, reducing reliance on humans and physical checks. 3D printing will amplify digital resilience for companies in urgent need of parts while IoT sensors will help reduce dependence on humans and systems to get data.

Blockchain combined with IoT will bring in touchless digital visibility, product traceability, and trust among partners. With most of the employees working remotely, the digital channels of collaboration and e-learning mechanism will continue to pave the way in future. Technologies such as computer vision cameras and video analytics are replacing security guards for effective security and compliance purpose while providing situational awareness and operational intelligence.

Technologies powering AI and Machine Learning will drive predictive maintenance and analytics, which will enhance operational efficacy while reducing costs. It will have the ability to improve transparency between partners whilst preparing for the future. The use of drones will proliferate and become a mainstay for touchless delivery with potential use cases in sanitation and cleaning efforts.

AR/VR will play a major role in selling an idea to the customers with an experience. All products from cars, fashion products, footwear to healthcare and education will feel its need for a touchless yet personalised experience. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is already gaining interest from corporates to overcome mundane work. Companies will soon recognise its need and worth to overcome human dependence, and boost efficiency and velocity of work in the post-pandemic world.

Covid-19 has induced an economically challenging situation for companies and countries alike. But the future should always be looked through the prism of hope. Be it for creating a safer workplace for employees and customers, enabling businesses adjust operations, improving efficiency, breaking stereotypes, or gaining visibility, technology will pave the way forward. It will be the digital bridge, which will connect people, demand, and supply aspirations to unleash a new digital world.

This digital jump will lead to a resilient live enterprise that is highly integrated, connected, aware, safe, and responsive. In a way, the pandemic is an opportunity to relook at our supply chain and make it more technologically oriented. A resilient live enterprise today will be a thriving enterprise tomorrow.

The writer is SVP and Services Offerings Head – Blockchain and Oracle Services at Infosys

Published on August 19, 2020

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