The supply chain may be the oldest industrial concept we have in history. Even the Egyptian pyramids were built in a complex supply chain where stones were carved from mountains, brought down the Nile, hauled by many methods to the site, and then moved into place by the hands of thousands of slaves. Flash forward, we now move rock, rockets, rocket science, and more technology by many more means, all part of a complex supply chain system.
One of the interesting points about the future of supply chain is how business is changing as the supply chain changes. My reference to the pyramids was a realization that, while we have new technology such as autonomous vehicles, super pipelines, smart grids, drones, AI, robotics, IoT, VR/AR, and other new emerging technologies, we still use all the old ones as well.
Railroads didn’t replace horses because horses went places railroads didn’t go. Airplanes delivered the goods faster but didn’t replace railroads as railroads go places airplanes don’t go. Trucks, vans, and bicycles are all part of the ever-evolving supply chain with humans still climbing stairs to deliver the goods. The interesting part of the new “chains” in the supply chain is that they extend the reach and speed of old supply chains. Integrating old, new and emerging all together in the new digital transformation chain supply is difficult but also exciting as new ideas emerge.
Without a doubt, we will add more and more technology into everything there is at an ever-increasing rate. For example, integrating technology into vegetable produce making them “smart” enough that they know the quality of the produce is an important food health concept. Connecting the food chain supply is vital to reducing and tracking salmonellae outbreaks. Yet, as we add more technology in everything, you also get a lot “back out.”
The internet of things should be, in my opinion, internet of everything or IoE. The reason I say that is that making “lettuce” or any product smarter is meaningless unless it is not just connected to the internet but also connected to everything else. The lettuce or product should know that the container carrying the lettuce is also connected and the truck, van, or train transporting the product is also connected including “talking” to each other through the supply chain. It is not enough for the lettuce to be protected against hazards but also that throughout the supply chain, everything else is alerted and involved as well. That is, built-in means built “into” everything else.
Making these connections is what Panasonic and others are doing. They are looking at the supply chain with a larger view of the inputs, outputs, and outcomes. I have written on their efforts before and what Panasonic is really bringing to the new integrated supply chain. This is the realization that all the connections and communications occur to create a truly integrated supply chain.
For example, Panasonic technology “extends digital workflows into every truck cab. This enables haulers of any form – train, truck, or van to decrease fuel costs through intelligent route planning and reduce delivery errors with digital bills of lading that track and report cargo status in real time. Advanced electronic logs even help ensure drivers get the rest they need.”
They are also thinking beyond the “cab” with their efforts into smart highways, avionics, smart cities, power grids, and other solutions. They are “adding in” more of everything or IoE that the truck driver and highway are connected and working together, and the lettuce is updating the farmer in realtime to its own product health. Working with other supply chain innovators, Panasonic is bringing real answers to very complicated problems we will face ahead.
Food chain technology brings many benefits, but there may be many more unanticipated consequences in the future if we don’t “link all the links” in the supply chain together today.
Summary – Changing the supply chain is both a new and old process. Integrating what is new with what is old will remain key as we will still use older technologies with all the new ones. By adding new technology to old systems and concepts brings the supply chain together making all the “chains” better for all.
Evan Kirstel is a B2B tech influencer and Key Opinion Leader that helps companies grow their social audience and leverage social media as a B2B sales networking, lead generation and thought leadership tool. He is a member of influencer marketing programs at Huawei, IBM, DellEMC, Intel and a HIMSS social media ambassador, with clients including CenturyLink, GENBAND, Ericsson, West Corp, Broadsoft, Qualcomm, Frontier, Panasonic and more.