Digital Technologies Shaping the Future of Supply Chains

By Renu Rajani, VP, Capgemini India

Supply Chain management has come a long way since 1990s and digital technologies transforming its evolution. This is the single-largest trigger for the consumer interaction through the mobile device.

This article touches upon the evolution of supply chain configurations based the impact of business and technology trends on supply chain management and on the way customers transaction is influencing the backend buying process.

Non-Linear Journey of Customer in Buying Process

The consumers have evolved from transacting in a single channel to a multi-channel environment. This evolution to omni-channel retailing has facilitated cross-channeling, flexible customer journeys and brand reinforcement.

 The customer in digital age follows a non-linear journey and for a single transaction navigates across various store forms (Physical out-of-store, Digital Out of Store), (At Home, On-the go, Digital In-Store), (Own device, In-store devices, Physical In-store).

Take an example where a customer looks at a product in a physical catalog / printed ad, Scans the QR code to get further details on product and options, checks online social media feedback on the go, goes to physical store and talks to a purchase consultant and checks demo of the products, leverages web analytics data and recommends options/accessories suitable. Now the in-store assistant uses a kiosk to check availability of recommended accessories in the store or at other stores, in case the product is not available in-house. The customer then uses his/her own tablet device, barcode scanner and payment wallet to place the order. He also has the choice to en-cash his/her coupons. Finally the item is picked up the same day from another store and delivered to the door. Suppose, one of the accessories does not perform as intended the malfunctioning item is collected from home. Customer gives feedback about this on customer service portal. Loyalty points are also credited. One can see that the customer has navigated across multiple channels for one single transaction.

Some of the emerging trends in business and technology that will influence the next cycle of change in supply chain management are:

Business Trends –

Blurring of boundaries between industries – Telecom, Financial Services, Retail, Contiguous multichannel shopping experience, Customer Collaboration as a core competence in digital business, Store as a multi-channel execution hub of digital business, Digital workplaces of future with bring-your-own device, crowd-sourcing, mobile workforce, amongst others.

Technology Trends –

Combining digitalization with the Internet of Things, Prioritizing the Role of Multi-Channel Master Data Management (MDM) and Multi-Channel Content Management (MCM) in digitalization and customer experience, Deploying Distributed Order Management to execute retailer multi-channel fulfillment strategies, amongst others.

New Technologies in Supply chain Industry

Supply chain Industry has undergone a significant change due to varying demands of customers. New segments and new services are evolving day-by day which is making supply chain complicated. Below are the various new technologies which are making supply chain more efficient and more optimized.

• FinTech Businesses: Supply chain financing is the biggest achievement of FinTech technologies in Supply chain sector FinTech also known as Financial Technologies is resonance of Technology and Financial services. This has helped companies to optimize their working capital and utilizes their resources and assets in a better way.

• Analytics and Bigdata: There is abundant amount of data from every possible source. But Big Answers are required from Big Data and here analytics will come into picture. Various analytical models are giving valuable suggestions to vendors and manufacturers about buying pattern of customers. This helps in streamlining the supply chain and avoid supply chain conflicts

• Internet of Things (IoT): has changed the way a materiel is shipped from factory to a client. A set of sensors with help of software are tracking shipments and their conditions at each point of time. This helps fighting problems like time of delivery, climate change, demand and supply etc.

• Smart Machines: Making errors is virtue of humans but not machines. Smart machines can do a particular job for us in more efficient way then a human. This can make supply chain more agile and responsive. This will also help in optimizing the raw materials costs.

• Cloud Computing: Concepts of Second screen is coming into picture these days. New post like ‘Supply chain officers’ has evolved in the recent time who can track the shipments from various devices or second screens and take immediate actions.

• 3D Printing: Use of different kinds of materials is 3D printing is changing the supply chain industry. Also called additive manufacturing (printing in layers) can be boon to fight situations like demand supply mismatch.

• Blockchain: FinTech disrupts financial industry and Blockchain disrupts Fintech. Blockchain is a distributed database that holds records of digital data or events and keeps them tamper resistant. BlockChain is capable of tracking all types of transactions. Imagine a product which changes many hands till it reaches to end customer. If we are able to track all the events in value chain then cost, delays etc. can be checked. 

Use of modern technologies such as Fintech, IoT, Blockchain, Cloud computing, 3D printing, smart machines, analytics and bigdata are set to make supply chains more optimal and efficient. Like devices and customer–facing mobile applications that have changed the buying process, smooth adoption of these technologies in various touch-points in supply chain holds the key to enhance efficiencies in various areas of supply chain.  

Current Issue