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Supply chain executives are meeting these challenges with innovation

supply chain and technology

Increasingly, supply chain leaders are turning to leading-edge technology to overcome issues.

According to a recent study by logistics software provider Descartes of 1,000 supply chain and logistics executives in North America and Europe, the challenges of the past several years have caused close to six in 10 (57%) respondents to accelerate their supply chain innovation initiatives.

Almost two in three (65%) respondents plan to invest more in supply chain and logistics innovation initiatives in the next two years. The two leading reasons (respondents could select more than one) for this increased investment are lowering costs and improving reliability (37% each), closely followed by cybersecurity (36%).

Although most respondents are looking to increase supply chain technology innovation, 61% said their current supply chain and logistics technology solutions are helping the company, not hindering it. Another 20% believe their current supply chain/logistics technology is actually hurting business performance, while 19% see no impact.

The study identified the top four top digitization initiatives respondents have focused on as order fulfillment (47%), customer experience (45%), transportation processes (44%), and supply chain visibility (43%).

Advanced tracking of truckload transportation (47%) was the top fully deployed innovation followed by fleet (33%) and courier (32%). Roughly half (49%) of respondents have already fully integrated real-time shipment tracking into their customer service solution, followed by integration with customer portals (36%), transportation management systems (27%), supply chain control towers (23%) and dock appointment scheduling systems (23%).

When looking at full deployments, with the exception of data analytics (40%), most advanced computing technologies such as machine learning (20%), artificial intelligence – non-machine learning (17%) and robotic process automation (16%) are still in the early stages of full production use among respondents.

Other interesting findings include:

  • Forty-three percent of respondents described their company’s innovation pace as “ahead of the competition” or “industry leader.” Only 12% believe their company is not keeping up with the pace of supply chain and logistics innovation in their respective markets. Of the 43% who described their pace as ahead of the competition or industry-leading, 54% indicated senior management believe supply chain and logistics innovation is very important, compared to 26% for those who believe it’s less important.
  • Almost nine in 10 (87%) respondents said they faced obstacles.
  • Respondents cited attitude to risk and reward (26%) as the greatest inhibitor to supply chain and logistics innovation.

“The recent past has highlighted that supply chain performance can make or break companies and the need to innovate supply chain and logistics operations has moved to the forefront of many C-suite agendas,” said Chris Jones, executive VP, industry and services at Descartes. “The study shows that, while efforts in supply chain and logistics innovation are accelerating, many companies are relatively early in their innovation journey in areas such as digitization and especially in the use of advanced computing technologies such as machine learning.” 

[Read more: Survey: Supply chain leaders focus on these areas…]

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