Top 10 disruptive supply chain & logistics tech

Top disruptive supply chain technologies include 3D printing, fog computing, autonomous vehicles, drones, wearable tech, robotics & automation, and IoT

Disruptive technology is advancement that changes the way businesses operate. Disruptive tech has the potential to replace age-old practices, and areas are experiencing changes more than supply chain. 

Some disruptive technology -- such as the Internet of Things - are more embedded than others, like 3D printing. Here, we include 10 of the most disruptive tech trends in supply chain.

Disruptive supply chain tech: 3D printing

Additive manufacturing – better known as 3D printing – has come a long way since the early 1980, when it produced only plastic prototypes. Now, it can produce a wide range of finished goods from materials including metal, concrete, plastics, resins and even food.

Businesses looking to shorten supply chains and minimise risk see 3D printing as a way of increasing speed to market and reducing global impact by limiting the shipping of goods around the globe.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Fog computing 

We all know about cloud computing but what about ‘fog computing’? This is a relatively new, location-independent concept, which spreads data across multiple servers. It uses virtual buffers to endlessly relocate data packets, meaning a file is never completely in one place, which is helping to make big-data analytics more secure and stable.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Autonomous vehicles

Uber Freight recently deployed Volvo’s autonomous transport solution on selected routes, starting in Texas. The solution is also designed to ease strained global supply chains and is a sign of things to come. Through the integration of vehicle-to-vehicle comms and radar-based collision avoidance systems fleets of trucks will soon be commonly driven in ‘platoons’, using aerodynamics to save fuel. Platoons are managed by cloud-based networks that connect trucks through mobile comms and Wi-Fi. Cloud-based supervision limits platoons to specified roads in safe driving conditions.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Drones

The increasing demand for contactless deliveries is seeing drones being increasingly used to deliver packages. Walmart is set to have the largest drone-delivery system in the US, with the retail giant expanding drone deliveries to six US states, and up to 4 million households.

There are an estimated 20,000 drones carrying out US retail deliveries globally, and around 500,000 drones are registered for commercial use with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US alone.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Wearable tech

Wearable tech is smart, hands-free electronic devices that automatically deliver information to the wearer. Connected glasses and clothing are increasingly common in warehouses. Logistics companies such as UPS use wearables to streamline their supply chain processes and save time.

A recent IDC study revealed 160 million wearables shipped in 2021, with 120 million of these smart watches and digital lifestyle devices.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Blockchain

Blockchain is significantly altering how retailers and consumer-packaged-goods manufacturers run their supply chains. The need for secure transactions and the demand for ESG and sustainability transparency are driving how buyers relate to brands. Blockchain is meeting these needs by guaranteeing the provenance of goods, as well as the security of supply chain transactions.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Robotics and automation

Robotics is revolutionising the supply chain and delivering huge value. It improves speed and accuracy of operations, particularly in warehousing and manufacturing. Robots also increase worker productivity, reduce error rate, cut pick-, sort- and storing-times, and increase access to difficult or dangerous locations. And, with the current labour problems, robots are shaping up as the last-mile workers of the future.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Predictive analytics

Big Data is now a guiding principle of supply chain management, but having data and making sense of it are different things. Enter predictive analytics. This uses applied statistical modelling and data mining to give supply chain bosses a 360-degree view of the supply landscape. Research shows the decision making of successful organisations is five times more likely to be analytics-driven than intuition-based.

Disruptive supply chain tech: Inventory tools

Such tools help organisations produce, store and distribute products more efficiently and effectively. No longer is ‘on-demand’ purely a demand of retail; all businesses now demand speed, visibility and transparency from supply chain partners – regardless of size, industry or position in the supply chain. Solutions that optimise inventory or supply chain networks are now de rigueur. 

Disruptive supply chain tech: IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) comprises billions of sensors that are embedded in various devices, both within the supply chain but also the wider world, like fridges and cars. The IoT allows for data-exchange – both within and between systems – over the Internet, and can leverage actionable data from every step of the supply chain. It’s now used for locating materials, servicing equipment and monitoring productivity and efficiency. 

In 2013, there were 20 million smart sensors in use in supply chains, feeding live data back to those controlling supply levers. In 2022, that number hit 1 trillion. By 2030, Deloitte predicts up to 10 trillion sensors will be deployed.


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