For decades, India’s logistics industry has been extremely fragmented due to low entry barriers and its large size. Additionally, minimal use of technology and process innovation made its entire supply chain inefficient.
But the advent of new-age logistics firms deploying the latest technology has disrupted the country’s complete supply chain universe, which is now experiencing a transformation. The shift toward technology was accelerated by pandemic-linked headwinds, nudging even traditional logistics players to embrace technology to remain competitive or risk becoming redundant in the fast-evolving market.
The criticality of a seamless supply chain in logistics needs no reiteration because inefficiency at any stage can lead to time and cost overruns.
Moreover, inadequate information between different supply chain companies only inflates expenses and inefficiencies.
Therefore, a cohesive supply chain is imperative to drive greater efficiencies and more cost-effective operations. In achieving this result, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and other tech tools all have a role to play in modern supply chain management. These technologies help in undertaking real-time analytics, augmenting cross-enterprise connectivity, automating the tracking procedures and optimising resources across the supply chain.
Below is an overview of the crucial supply chain technologies for logistics firms to gain a competitive advantage:
The Internet of Things
Products fitted with IoT devices facilitate the efficient tracking of vehicles, equipment and inventory. IoT sensors also enhance visibility and supply chain efficiencies through effective monitoring of shipments. As a result, both SMEs and large companies have joined hands with dedicated IoT start-up entities providing seamless and hassle-free supply chain visibility.
Through AI, fashion brands can keep consumer experience at the centre of all operations, providing personalised products with faster deliveries. AI can aid in gauging fashion trends by monitoring social media posts to comprehend consumer behaviour and offer recommendations based on buyers’ earlier purchase patterns, etc. AI can also curb the number of production errors, minimise logistics and operational costs, increase efficiency, boost revenues and enhance customer experiences.
Machine Learning and Data Analytics
Whereas lack of adequate data was a problem in the pre-digital age, today massive mounds of data are generated virtually every day by modern supply chains. Such data offer immense insights into intricate global supply networks. By leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics, logistics stakeholders can automate operations, boost delivery times, manage inventory proactively, optimise strategic relationships and curate novel customer experiences that amplify sales and satisfaction levels.
Through predictive means and algorithms, companies can peruse large data sets, garnering granular insights without any human intervention. To elaborate, creating a logistics plan for myriad product SKUs (stock-keeping units) to be shipped to thousands of distribution centres and warehouses globally can be a veritable nightmare if attempted manually. By automating the collection and analysis of data, however, an optimised master shipping plan can be created with comparative ease.
Automation and Robots
Although robots have been used earlier in supply chains to move goods in a warehouse, in transit and during the fulfilment process, AI tools are poised to push robots to greater levels of sophistication, including through the automation of heavy loading tasks as well as picking and packing orders. AI, ML and IoT connectivity are enhancing the mobility and precision of industrial robots, increasing safety and creating a new cohort of cobots or collaborative robots, which can work along with humans rather than being segregated in individual safety zones.
The prospects of human-robot collaboration are propelling major deployments across the supply chain. As per IDC, by 2023 around 65% of warehouse functions will use robots and situational data analytics for driving storage optimisation, expanding warehouse capacity by more than 20% and crunching work order processing duration by 50%. It also predicts that by 2023, more than 60% of manufacturers globally would invest in AI-powered robotic process automation, leading to higher productivity while bridging the supply chain skills’ talent gap.
Direct to Consumer
Today, an online presence is seen as indispensable for apparel brands to interact and sell directly to customers. Apart from enjoying better margins, D2C permits brands more control over consumer experiences, absolute visibility of customer data and direct access to buyers, advancing greater brand loyalty. By leveraging social media platforms and mobile apps, fashion brands can target their customers without hassle as and when required, facilitating seamless delivery of goods too.
The distributed ledger technology is primed to promote greater transparency and visibility in the supply chain process. Since blockchain acts as an irreversible register of transactions, it is well placed to ascertain the origins of products and build trust in shared supplier data, particularly if the stakeholders have competing objectives that don’t create trust. Blockchain creates an audit trail that is more effective than conventional means such as email or plain electronic record keeping. Its track-and-trace applications can help companies establish a chain of custody for goods, preventing leakage, aiding in the identification of fraud and counterfeit goods, identifying at-risk vendors, checking that compliance requirements are followed and generating transparency around sourcing. As India aims to accelerate its ‘Make in India’ programme to emerge as a $5 trillion economy, the role of technology in transforming supply chain dynamics will play a vital role in achieving this goal earlier.
By Gaurav Pushkar – The writer is Co-Founder – DaMENSCH
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)