Digital technologies have become part of the way people connect and operate. Before any technology adoption, having a good understanding of how the technology can assist to improve selected processes within the supply chain is vital. Combining big data analytics with IoT and cloud-based technology can allow analysed complex datasets to be securely transmitted and stored. The analysed data can provide insights to improve the management of goods within the warehouse through integration with the WMS, and transportation of outgoing goods fulfilled via various forms of autonomous vehicle technologies. This article discusses several digital technologies that can be inter-connected to optimize their full benefits for an effective supply chain.
Big Data Analytics
Big data analytics are able to manage complicated datasets that can be challenging to process using traditional methods. Big data analytics are essential in an increasingly complex supply chain, as they are capable of identifying or resolving issues more rapidly as compared to manual processes. Through big data, costs of operation decreases by eliminating wastes through accurate forecasting, while it promotes innovation at the same time.
There are four widely known classifications of big data analytics.
- “Descriptive Analytics” integrates historical data to understand changes in the company. The data collected provides corresponding statistics along with past review of the operations, inventory, sales, financials, customers, and stakeholders.
- “Diagnostic Analytics” uses correlations of data mining and data discovery to understand the primary cause of activities and behaviours, while segregating all complex information to provide a deeper analysis.
- “Predictive Analytics” combines both descriptive and diagnostic analytics with statistical methods. It provide users with viable insights based on the data collected, and uses algorithms to anticipate specific outcomes.
- “Prescriptive Analytics” uses optimization and simulation algorithms to make recommendations, and support steps to eliminate a future problem or identify potential opportunities.
Internet of Things (IoT) Technology
IoT is a network embedded with sensors, software, electronics, and connectivity that allow devices to communicate within an existing internet infrastructure. It enables data exchange and processing to occur, allowing companies to track and oversee goods in real-time for better optimization of opportunities.
IoT application in logistics allow decrease in wastes, increase in speed, and overall costs reduction. By utilizing IoT in conjunction with blockchain, it can digitally record transactions between parties, track assets, and create a transparent yet secured system for better management of any documents involved in the process. IoT is an important part of a digital supply chain as it accurately predict, control, and integrate with smarter systems that can improve the overall process within the chain.
3D Printing Technology
3D printing technology allow manufacturers, businesses and individuals to print exact working replicas of parts and products using plastics, composite materials, metals, and even human tissues. It is a process whereby layers of material builds up and create a 3D part, with less material wastage.
There are presently three common variations of 3D printing technology.
- “Sintering” is a method where materials are heated (below its melting point) to create high-resolution items. Metal laser sintering uses metal powders, while selective laser sintering uses thermoplastic powders in the process.
- “Melting” method uses electric arcs, electron beams, or lasers, to print objects at high temperatures and melting the materials together.
- “Stereolithography” method uses photopolymerization to fabricate parts. This technology uses a light source to link with the material in a selective manner in order to cure and strengthen a cross-section of the object in fine layers.
The duration needed for 3D printing to be completed takes anywhere between a few minutes to days, depending on the resolution, speed, and volume of material required. 3D printing technology can be useful for industries with complex product designs to replicate. As the technology advances, it will enable logistics providers to offer additional logistics services within the supply chain it serves.
Warehouse Management System (WMS)
WMS is software that controls and supports warehouse functionalities, and it provides visibility on the facility’s operations. It tracks shipments, perform cycle counts, and assist users to optimize the inventory system. Choosing the right WMS based on the company’s unique needs is crucial.
The benefits of WMS include shortening of fulfilment time, increasing of warehouse productivity, better inventory accuracy, greater space utilization, and reducing labour costs. Linking the WMS with Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology can allow tasks like inventory management, and assets tracking to occur. A reader scans the digitally encrypted data in the RFID tags, transmits and exchanges data, before uploading the recorded information into the WMS.
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