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SCOPE Supply Chain Conference, held last week in not-too-cold Chicago, was a unique ‘invitation-only’ supply chain event aimed to attract both visionaries & practitioners of supply chain. An estimate of 100+ companies attended, where the entire range of supply chain functional titles was present, including planners, buyers, sourcing, purchasing, procurement, warehousing, logistics, fulfillment, and operations. As I roamed the conference, it felt like a reunion of Supply Chain High School – running into students who have dispersed into infinite fields such as pharmaceutical, restaurant, high tech, brick and mortar retail, CPG, industrial, logistics/fulfillment, fashion, services, etc.

Supply Chain Is Driving Business Transformation

Sitting through the multiple sessions at SCOPE and listening to a myriad of presentations from diverse industries, it was apparent that supply chain organizations were chartered to drive business transformation. And three distinct strategies were emerging : 1) supply chain needs to help drive top level revenue growth 2) supply chain needs to creatively decrease cost and increase operational efficiencies 3) supply chain needs to enable the business to adapt to a dynamic market – or die. In the “help drive top level revenue growth” camp, one company was experiencing hyper organic growth (a waxing salon company). Another was a new business with a clear unique value proposition (wholesale clubhouse style purchase to your door). To support growth, these growing companies tend to focus on strategic sourcing, modern e-commerce “on demand” fulfillment, and exceptional customer experience. Supply chain is in the critical path of growing the company – being able to source critical raw materials, being able to fulfill shipment immediately, and being able to give highly accurate ETA, real time tracking. In the “creatively improve operational efficiencies” camp, companies were sharing ways to improve the bottom line in a highly competitive environment. Supply chain operations were more focused on supplier & procurement consolidation – to drive cost management and improve communication efficiencies, more realistic and demand driven planning, and better inventory management to reduce discounts. The “adapting to a dynamic market” camp was the most interesting of all, because many of us grew up with some of these brands. Listening to what these fading brands are experiencing as they are being outflanked by newer and nimble companies – and what they are doing to survive and thrive.

Disruptive Digital Technology Cited as Delivering Supply Chain Transformation

In session after session, disruptive digital technology was front and center in driving supply chain transformation. One company (industrial materials) is simultaneously solving multiple supply chain problems (siloed information, multiple ERP on-premise systems, no single source of truth, outdated information) with one leap to the cloud. Another company (fast food) is adopting real-time temperature sensors and location tracking to ensure that beef is fresh and safe – critical as the fast food company makes the transition away from frozen beef. Another company (supply chain practitioner) has used AI and machine learning to learn about people, machine, and process tendencies to schedule an optimized work schedule – hence reducing waste and increasing throughput. Cloud was touted as a key ingredient of driving supply chain transformation – where cloud is giving its users single real-time source of data (that cuts across separate data silos), unifying not-invented-here business processes, and providing extended capabilities such as machine learning and internet-of-things.

Where Can You Start To Explore Disruptive Digital Technology for Your Supply Chain Today?

Oracle has already adopted emerging disruptive technologies in some of its Supply Chain Management Cloud applications. Starting with 4P’s of supply chain (sorry, taking a little liberty from the 4P of college MKT 101), Oracle Supply Chain Cloud is an end-to-end supply chain solution that includes: Planning, Procurement, Production, and Phulfillment (typo intentional). Once on the Oracle Cloud, the path to digitally transforming your supply chain continues. The Oracle IoT Asset Monitoring can be used to track any types of sensor (temperature, humidity, vibration, etc). Oracle IoT Fleet Monitoring app can track all statistics on a vehicle, including oil level, engine temperature, and real-time location. Alerts can be generated automatically – such as delays, off course delivery, dangerously high engine temperatures – so that integrated supply chain management applications can handle issues such as shipment delays and vehicle breakdowns. Oracle IoT Production Monitoring app can monitor all aspects of production globally – including real time output, yield, deviation from plan, machine bottlenecks – so that real time output and potential problems can be flagged before product is impacted. All IoT data is stored in the cloud, and analytics can be applied to it immediately. If the analytics detect that the temperature in the beef refrigeration unit is rising dangerously fast, Digital Thread (connecting of real-time information to ERP systems) can be triggered to flag the shipment.

In conclusion, supply chain organizations have begun to adopt disruptive digital technology to 1) help drive top level revenue growth 2) creatively decrease cost and increase operational efficiencies 3) enable the business to adapt to a dynamic market – so that supply chain organizations can finally get some sleep.

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