Gartner's Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution Technologies

By Oliver Freeman
Supply Chain Digital explores Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution Technologies 2020, sharing insights on the current technology trends...

Gartner, the industry-leading global research and advisory firm, recently published its annual “Hype Cycle” report This study gives a view of how a technology or application will evolve in the coming years. The provided graphics track and portray the various solutions found in any sector based on a model that Gartner has developed for a technology’s adoption lifecycle. 

Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution Technologies 2020, which you can see below, places different technologies on a slightly out of the ordinary maturity curve. Not the one that is usually provided by other firms, anyway ─ which makes it particularly effective in demonstrating the norms and values of the supply chain sector, right now. 


What Does It Mean? 

Just like every other Hype Cycle, this year’s tracks technologies and solutions from their initial introductory rise to their “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. Then we follow the line down into the “Trough of Disillusionment”, as reality hits and consumers find that the initial hype led only to an anti-climatic finish. Ergo, the product didn’t deliver the perfection that is pitched. 

For the technologies that didn’t quite meet the standards that proprietors promised on their initial launch, but do offer some value to the marketplace, there’s a gradual rise from the Trough up through the Slope of Enlightenment and, eventually, onto the Plateau of Productivity ─ where, presumably, they’ll always remain. 

Our Insights

I’m going to run you through a few key points to note when observing this years graph, so grab your notebooks and a pen. 

  • I’ve heard people comment that Warehouse Management and Transporation Management Systems (WMS/TMS) are heavily relied upon across global supply chain networks, yet do not feature on Gartner’s graph. This is most likely because they’re so well-established and have proven their worth so are far beyond the “Plateau of Productivity”. People have also suggested that Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) are akin to WMS. Don’t make this mistake. WCS is a software application that orchestrates activity flows within warehouses ─ conveyor belts, carousels, scales, and sorters, for example. 
  • Mobile robots in the distribution space are a hot prospect. Why? Because autonomous systems are the way of the future ─ they free up human operatives to work behind the scenes, on more creative and, where necessary, technical roles that robots and AI cannot handle alone. These robots aren’t widely-used just yet, so they’re en-route to the Trough of Disillusionment, but with Industry 4.0 breaking down the doors of traditional supply chain sectors, I reckon they’ll be rising like a phoenix soon.
  • Do you remember, a couple of years ago, when drones were all the rage? There was a huge buzz around the concept of Amazon, in particular, using drones to safely deliver packages to customers across the globe ─ it was innovative, ahead of its time, and environmentally-friendly versus traditional logistical means. The hype died down after several incidents where drones made dangerous intrusions on flight paths and caused a level of paranoia among officials over their potential detrimental use.

    This is an idea that might gain traction as we move into 2021, in a world that has been flipped upside down by COVID-19 and social distancing measures. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it head up the Slope of Enlightenment in the near future.

On the use of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, company officials stated that “When considering new supply chain execution (SCE) initiatives and investments, users should align their risk tolerance to the positioning of various technologies in this research.” 

If I were you, I’d recommend taking everything with a pinch of salt; as I’ve mentioned above, there are several technologies on the chart that, currently, are in the Trough. But, if the volatility of 2020 is anything to go by, there’s potential for these new technologies to be imperative to future business operations in a COVID-19-ruled world. 


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