A great deal of focus and many discussions are taking place around the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ (4IR).
Many companies from leading world economies, as well as some developing countries, are investing a lot of time and money into skill development and embracing innovation. India, China and Germany are just a few examples where some positive results are being achieved.
With these levels of innovation, it is crucial to develop a workforce with a skill set that assist and improve the supply chain in all areas and on all levels.
The increasingly important need for real-time tracking and accurate delivery systems makes the supply chain ideal for innovation and improvements like wireless and handheld devices that can be used throughout the logistics environment.
Facing technology challenges
This technology boom in the sector does pose challenges for big corporate companies that have invested a lot in older technology. However, smaller to medium sized companies are not as invested and can be at the leading end of the market, supplying solutions and services, can act as pioneers and create a healthy, cost-friendly environment.
Strategic workforce management is also very critical, with flexible communication and networking improving the supply chain process and creating a better client service and experience.
The many benefits to the value chain within such a set of technology-enabled future skills include live tracking and reporting and instantly changing and updating orders through mobile apps.
The role of innovation
Value chain management can thus enable a better flow of materials and productivity. A seamless flow of information can help to improve cash flow.
The location of distribution hubs and better forecasting and planning can ensure that a company is able to adapt and evolve with all the innovation. Value chain management can offer valuable direction regarding new market opportunities and investment.
Another growing trend is towards ‘responsible sustainable supply chains’, where companies need to look at how, what and where they can lessen their carbon footprints. Initiatives could include changing your fleet, using cleaner, better-running engines, and enabling the use of paperless transactions.
Traffic smart applications, smart buildings with solar panel power solutions and sensor lighting are further ways to use technology as an enabler. The future client and governments will be judging companies ever-more critically in the future.
Pulling it all together
The warehouse of the future will be shaped by trends in society and technology. The concept of the ‘pop-up warehouse’ will become more common, set up to serve the needs of clients for a specific time and in a specific area.
Technology advancements will make this possible and with proper strategic planning and connecting with the right value chain partners, the future of logistics can be exciting and rewarding.
Wits Plus offers a contact-based short course in Applied Logistics and Supply Chain Management. An online course called Logistics and Supply Chain Management Practice is also available through the Wits DigitalCampus platform.
Author: Dr Dennis Laxton is a part-time lecturer in logistics and supply chain management at Wits Plus.