22 February 2019
impact of Supply Chain 4.0
Certain stages of
technological innovation are so transformative, they revolutionise the way we
work. The first industrial revolution saw the dawn of mechanisation, the second
involved mass production and the third was all about computers and information
technology, and now many believe we are in the midst of the fourth right now;
the era of big data, automation and digitisation.
Today, Industry 4.0 is
making its presence felt across all aspects of the manufacturing process,
including the supply chain. For bulk logistics companies, Supply Chain 4.0
represents a faster, more responsive and more efficient operational approach.
What is Supply Chain 4.0?
Supply Chain 4.0 is a digitised
incarnation of the supply chain – one that’s enhanced by intelligent
technology. With the ability to connect and record data from almost every stage
of the process, Supply Chain 4.0 gives us the insight to make continual
operational improvements as products move from supplier to customer.
In a ‘Supply Chain
4.0’ infrastructure, there are no separate, isolated systems or information
silos; data flows freely through a network in which management systems
communicate in real-time. Connected sensors turn previously un-trackable
aspects of the supply chain into sources of data insight thanks to the Internet
of Things (IoT), while big data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI)
create opportunities to automate segments of the process without the need for
Each digitised part of
the supply chain generates a continuous stream of data about its operational
performance - information that can be used to refine it further still.
What can be achieved with Supply
So, Supply Chain 4.0
is fuelled by digital technology, but what does this mean in terms of actual
benefits for the bulk logistics industry? Here are some of the ways that Supply
Chain 4.0 methodologies can create tangible value for our sector.
A more transparent and agile supply
In a move away from
the linear ‘step-by-step’ model of the traditional supply chain, in which each
stage is separately planned and confirmed before the next, Supply Chain 4.0 is
based on free-flowing information.
Thanks to connected
systems, each party in the process – suppliers, manufacturers, distributors –
have visibility of the movements and progress of the others, giving them a holistic
view of the entire supply chain and instant alerts if a problem or delay
occurs. This real-time transparency arms them with the agility to respond to
changing supply or demand needs almost immediately, minimising supply chain
interruptions and keeping things moving.
A faster and more forward-thinking
Informed by data at
every stage, Supply Chain 4.0 is naturally faster than its earlier guises. Digital
connectivity both at base and in the field enables a smoother, more efficient
and ultimately quicker handover between supply chain stages.
But that’s not all,
there’s even more time-saving that Supply Chain 4.0 has the potential to
The analysis of vast amounts of supply chain and related data can be
used to ‘train’ artificially-intelligent applications, until they’re capable of
spotting trends and patterns, as well as the factors that contribute to them.
These predictive analytics give logistics managers the ability to pre-empt
surges or drops in demand, adjusting supply chain levels accordingly in order
to meet imminent client needs in record time. For example, combining fluctuations
in seasonal client demand with wider market trends and weather forecasting data
could flag key periods of expected need before they occur – to the point where
product could be shipped before a
client places an order.
A more accurate and efficient supply
Working from a ‘single
version of the truth’ enables managers within Supply Chain 4.0 to prevent miscommunicated
or unknown information from causing errors up and down the chain. No longer
will discrepancies between different systems and sets of paperwork threaten to
derail the process, instead constant digital communication gives everyone
access to the same accurate and up-to-date data to work from and decide next
Chain 4.0 creates scope for automation to take on many of the daily supply
chain management tasks that can slow human managers down. The same AI that can
learn to predict demand trends can be trained to automatically react when
certain parameters are reached within the supply chain; to take mitigating
action that leaves managers free to concentrate on more complex
Supply Chain 4.0 will shape the future
of bulk logistics
digitisation and its myriad applications have the power to turn the traditional
supply chain into something dynamic; a data-led and data-generating process
that constantly creates actionable performance-improving insight.
optimisation technology, we already have the capability to apply
Supply Chain 4.0 methodologies to bulk logistics management; systems that can
digitally ease the complexities of this unique sector and also link seamlessly
with other parts of the supply chain. This technology will continue to evolve
as the fourth industrial revolution unfolds, ensuring bulk logistics managers
can stay at the forefront of digital innovation.