Emerging Tech in Supply Chain Management

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: February 10, 2023

Technology is completely transforming the way a Supply Chain Management works today but what exactly is this emerging tech that we should be aware of in supply chains? That's what I want to talk about here today.

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Much of the work we do with our client base involves Supply Chain Management. When we're helping clients through Digital Transformations, oftentimes, the core of what they're changing is their supply chain and as we've seen over the years, technology is changing very quickly, there's a lot of new emerging technologies and supply chains are changing quite a bit as well. What we want to do today is talk about the emerging technology that you should be most aware of and cognizant of as you think about potential supply chain and or digital transformations. 

Supply Chain Management Software

The most established and most mature of the emerging technology that I'm going to talk about here today is Supply Chain Management software. There's a number of Supply Chain Management software vendors like Blue Yonder and Manhattan Associates that provide Supply Chain Solutions that are focused on just supply chains. This includes everything from warehouse management to logistics to procurement and other parts of the supply chain.

You have these established Supply Chain Management vendors that are one option but you also have other supply chain vendors that provide more targeted solutions within Supply Chain Management. For example, you have standalone warehouse management solutions, you have stand-alone transportation management system, standalone procurement systems, standalone shipping, all types of different technologies that can really go deep into one part of your supply chain. One of the more fun fundamental technologies that supply chain managers use to transform their supply chains are these off-the-shelf Supply Chain Management solutions.


Robotics have been around for a long time but they're just now really starting to gain traction in Supply Chain Management. Robotics are a way to automate some of the manual labor and some of the error-prone processes that were historically driven by humans. Think about all the different touch points that a raw material or finished good has throughout a supply chain. Beginning with the manufacturing of the product, you have robotics that can automate the manufacturing process when the finished products or the raw materials are in the warehouse, you have robotics that can automatically manage the pick, pack and ship processes. Those are just a couple examples of how robotics are changing the way supply chain managers manage the overall supply chain.

It's not just robotics themselves that are the game changers, they're creating more efficiencies and more consistency and predictability and scale than humans can but robotics also have the advantage of capturing data in the supply chain. Robotics are not just a way to automate manual processes, they're also a way to capture data that we typically hadn't had before robotics in our supply chains.

When we look at all the steps that happen in a process within Supply Chain Management, you have a lot of data that's being captured, there's a lot of touch points there and it's hard to track where exactly a raw material or finished good is and that's where internet of things can be extremely valuable because now we have devices throughout the supply chain that are capturing data. This allow us to have real-time visibility in ways we didn't before.

For example, we talked about robotics a minute ago and how robotics have the ability to capture information about the status of raw materials and finished goods, whether it's in a warehouse or on a shop floor, you also have other devices and other data points throughout the supply chain. You have trucks that can be monitored with devices, you have handheld devices that might be used to track inventory and track the status of different supply chain activities. So, we have hordes of data that are being captured but now we have to figure out what do we do with that data and that's where Internet of Things comes into play. Internet of Things is a way to consolidate data and to get and to give us better visibility and integration of that data throughout a supply chain.

Interoperability and Integration Tech

With all these different technologies we've talked about so far, there's the risk that we have siloed technology that doesn't integrate and in order for internet of things to work and some of the benefits of Internet of Things, we need to have integration between these different systems. We might have devices out in the field capturing data, we might have multiple systems managing different parts of our business but ultimately we need to figure out how to tie this all together so that we have a centralized dashboard and centralized visibility into what's happening in our supply chain.

This is where interoperability in integration technology comes into play. We need to have that core platform that ties together these different technologies. Some examples of interoperability, types of technologies would be vendors such as Palantir or Snowflake, those are two vendors that really tie together and consolidate data from multiple sources and give you unique insights and workflows based on those integration points. So we need to think about interoperability in integration technologies in addition to some of the other technologies we have talked about when it comes to managing our supply chains.

Artificial Intelligence

With all these different systems and the integration of systems and data, now we have the ability to really think about how we can make use of that data in ways that we haven't been able to in the past. That's where artificial intelligence comes into play. With the complexity of today's supply chains, not just in terms of the systems and technologies we've talked about but just Global Supply Chains in general, they're very complex, a lot of moving parts and a lot of different geographies we're operating in.

You have macroeconomic trends that can affect your supply chain, you have geopolitical and weather related events that can affect a supply chain and so on. There's many factors we have to manage, understand, anticipate and mitigate the risk for and artificial intelligence can be a great way to do this. Artificial intelligence allows us to take all the data that we're capturing throughout the supply chain and now start to learn from that data and start to predict and analyze what might happen in the future so that we as humans, can take some of those different scenarios and take some of the outputs from artificial intelligence and really have better understanding of where the risks are and where the opportunities are to optimize our supply chains. Artificial intelligence is an emerging tech that will completely transform supply chains now and in the future.


The last emerging tech and supply chain management that I'll talk about here today is blockchain. Blockchain has been around for a while and most of you may think of cryptocurrency when you think about blockchain and it certainly is an underlying technology for cryptocurrency but blockchain also has a lot of practical use cases within Supply Chain management.

Blockchain can allow us to track each step in the process and sort of provide a unique stamp and understanding of where the steps have been, where the breakdowns have been and really understand everything that happened from the initial start of the supply chain until the product reaches the end customer. Blockchain is a very secure way and a very unique way that supply chain managers can start to get a better handle on where things are within the supply chain.

It is also particularly important and particularly opportunistic when it comes to highly regulated sorts of supply chains. If you're a food or beverage manufacturer for example, blockchain technology is a great way to provide traceability in case there's a recall, so you can trace back to what the raw material problem area was. If you're contracting or providing goods or services to government entities, you need to have a very secure way of tracking how that product was made and where the product was made that's another way the blockchain can help. Blockchain technology is another game changer potentially for supply chains now and in the future.

So I hope this has provided you some insights and understanding of what some of those emerging technologies are in Supply Chain Management.

If you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, we would love to give you some insights. Please contact me for more information eric.kimberling@thirdstage-consulting.com

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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