As digital supply chains rapidly merge with physical supply chains, paper documentation and local information storage are being replaced by cloud technology and digital logistics management systems. How can we logistics professionals benefit from digital supply chains?
The answer is complex. In the information age, digitalization is spreading all over the industry. Re-organizing business operations around modern data collection practices, KPIs, and integrated IT solutions is not an easy task in an asset-intensive industry like transportation. However, global leaders in other industries have already begun introducing digital changes into their daily workflows, so the rest of us will follow soon. The biggest value created by a digital supply chain network is that it allows a more forward-looking approach to data usage within an organization. Currently, the vast majority of transportation and logistics companies still rely on data collected in the past to make business development changes based on what was successful in the past. In comparison, with a digitalized approach to business development, companies can predict the future needs of supply chain partners and make strategic choices based on what will work tomorrow – even if it wouldn't have worked yesterday.
Also, it is important to highlight the impact of the Internet of Things on digital supply chains. Logistics enterprises will benefit from process improvements that lead to better, more efficient product transportation requiring less efforts from workers. In logistics, the IoT can be used to share and connect data from various sources across multiple devices. It enables future technological advances in various aspects of the supply chain business – not only management and decision making but also loading, last mile delivery, and distribution.
Moreover, data visualization will enable logistics managers to communicate their plans and capabilities to clients faster and clearer. Infographics, a trendy component of today's managerial presentations, are just a tiny example of the full potential of data visualization.
As AsstrA's Division Head of Business Application Development Artur Zhidkov observes, “Some time ago, EDIs (Electronic Document Interchanges) were introduced to digital supply chains. These computer-to-computer information exchange networks use standard electronic formats to reduce paperwork when orders, invoices and other different documents are created, sent or signed by business partners. There are many reliable EDI networks now to link digital supply chain participants. The next step should be to analyse a large amount of electronic transactions which can be stored using new data collection methods and integrated IT solutions as so-called Big Data. Such analyses can be very helpful in making business decisions, managing supply chains, and working with other companies.”
Another issue to consider is that in response to growing demands of e-shoppers, transportation companies will use the internet to be closer to their customers than ever. Already, companies like Uber, Netflix, Pandora, Etsy, and Amazon leverage technology to offer highly customized products and services that boost sales and customer satisfaction.
To conclude, the speed of technology adoption in supply chains will affect which market players prosper and which suffer losses and potential bankruptcies. Productivity supported by new media solutions and innovations will subsequently improve communications and profitability. Competition will only get fiercer as more new products come to market. Only wise, flexible and fast integration of digital supply chains into core business processes will help an enterprise stay afloat on tomorrow's sea of digitalized businesses and markets.