Inbound Logistics | April 2023

These technologies will play a starring role in supply chain management. By Karen Kroll

(65%) plan to increase technology spending over the next two years, Descartes reports. These investments tend to pay off. Respondents who say that innovation is important to senior management are 20% more likely to be better nancial performers, the study nds. MEETING MULTIPLE GOALS Over the past ve years, many supply chain organizations have been asked to drive multiple capabilities, says Sameer Anand, principal and Americas supply chain practice leader with EY-Parthenon. These capabilities include: • Productivity and shifting the cost curve. • Resiliency, including end-to-end supply chain visibility. • Agility and exibility to respond to changing consumer expectations. • Developing “green” or sustainable supply chains. In addition, as supply chains work with an increasing volume of data, speedier processing capabilities have also become critical. The following technologies can help supply chain organizations meet these multiple goals.

That has become particularly important as more supply chains shift back to a just-in-time or near just-in- time approach, says Jonathan Wright, chief technology evangelist with Keysight Technologies, which helps engineers quickly deploy solutions. Virtual reality. This refers to a simulated 3D environment that enables users to “explore and interact with a virtual surrounding in a way that approximates reality,” TechTarget explains. In the logistics function, virtual reality can come into play in multiple ways. In a distribution center, for instance, pickers may wear virtual reality glasses that can scan multiple barcodes. When combined with voice commands, these tools can help workers locate items without having to maneuver a scanner or other device, boosting picking accuracy and efciency. Another application is in spare parts logistics. Should a machine on a ship or in a factory need repair, individuals with the appropriate expertise can guide the repair using virtual reality from remote locations. “You save a lot of money because you don’t have to move people to the repair site,” says Herbert Kotzab, Ph.D., director of Crowley Center for Transportation and Logistics and the CSX Transportation Eminent Scholar in Transportation and Logistics at the University of North Florida.

he team at Burlap & Barrel, which imports sustainable, single-origin spices, has been

implementing “technology to help with speed and accuracy at the warehouse,” says Ori Zohar, co-founder and co-chief executive ofcer. Among its initiatives, Burlap & Barrel wanted to create a system to allocate orders between its two warehouses. However, two separate companies run those warehouses; they rely on different software to determine how to handle orders, making it difcult for the locations to communicate with each other. To create a bridge across the two warehouse management systems, Burlap & Barrel’s technology developer used APIs, or application programming interfaces. APIs contain rules that allow different applications to communicate with each other. As connectivity has become a key focus within supply chain organizations, given the many systems they’re leveraging and from which they’re trying to collect data, APIs have become an increasingly popular way to connect systems. The global market for APIs management is expected to jump from $4.1 billion in 2021 to $8.41 billion in 2027, predicts Market Data Forecast. When Burlap & Barrel received a wave of holiday orders in December 2022 that was almost double the volume in November, the company was “able to immediately modify the logic of how we assign orders to let the overwhelmed warehouse catch up while lling the capacity of the second warehouse,” Zohar says. “It saved the holidays for us and many of our customers.” A growing number of companies are leveraging technology to improve their supply chain and logistics operations. About 59% of supply chain and logistics professionals surveyed by Descartes Systems Group accelerated the pace of innovation investment and deployment over the past two years. Nearly two-thirds


By utilizing automated technologies, companies can maximize efciencies while increasing productivity, says Melissa Twiningdavis, supply chain services lead with Accenture Operations. Such companies saw up to 2.8 times a growth in protability, among other benets, nds a recent Accenture study. 3D Printing. Additive or 3D printing can help companies do more with less by limiting the need for emergency shipments of repair, replacement, or other parts. If a manufacturer needs a specic part to continue operating, rather than hold one in inventory or place an order and then wait for the shipment, the company can print the part on-site.


Visibility boosts resiliency by enabling supply chain organizations to identify and more effectively manage through disruptions and market shifts. Yet a primary challenge for many supply chain leaders during the pandemic was gaining visibility to their extended supply chains, says Abe Eshkenazi, chief executive ofcer with the Association for Supply Chain Management. Several technologies can boost supply chain visibility, including these:

April 2023 • Inbound Logistics 49

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