Blockchain, chatbots. and digitization are gaining more traction, and soon could cause disruption in the way companies integrate supply chain data, interact with customers and think about their business strategy.
The latest Supply Chain Hot Trends report from eft Supply Chain and Logistics Business Intelligence notes that these areas are winning greater interest and engagement from companies compared with just a couple quarters ago.
Blockchain, a distributed ledger technology winning many headlines in the supply chain space, is something many organizations are now using in some way, at least internally. The firm found that 60% of respondents it surveyed said they were engaging with blockchain in the second quarter of 2017, a noticeable increase from the 50% that were using it in the fourth quarter of 2017.
As blockchain technology deployments become more widespread, the way companies exchange data could be disrupted, eft said. Visibility and tracking practices could also be affected by blockchain rollouts. The report noted:
Real-time data has become a major differentiator for businesses throughout the supply chain. The ability to predict trends and react with agility to disruption or change can mean make or break for an organization. As such, EDI is making way to API as real-time data feeds become the norm. Blockchain has the potential to add an additional layer of automation to data interchange via smart contracts. It also could add additional security measures for data interchange and accentuate trust between partners due to how the ledger system works.
However, even as blockchain is becoming a more common talked-about and used technology, its success is mostly limited to private organizations’ internal operations. Another milestone will be to see how blockchain can be used in what eft calls public chains, where a blockchain is open to parties external to an organization, and data exchange between supply chain partners would be eased.
Chatbots may also advance supply chain processes, and along with blockchain, could begin to have a more significant supply chain impact in the next year or two, according to eft.
Chatbots, or chatter robots, are computer programs designed to stimulate conversations with humans via voice or text methods. Increasingly, consumer interactions with businesses are being routed through chatbots. Given the trend to have more customer-centric supply chain, eft said chatbots could be a key technology for allowing businesses to effectively manage all customer touchpoints. As such, the firm found that more companies are considering chatbot technology. In the last quarter of 2016, 79% of respondents said they were not engaging with chatbots in any way, and in the second quarter of 2017 that number dropped to 49%, eft reported.
Digitization is not new, but it is an “overarching business strategy” for companies surveyed, and remains an important priority for businesses and supply chain professionals, eft noted.
The idea of using digital technologies to shift business models and create new revenue and value-added opportunities has taken a significant hold in 2017; companies reported a 43% average budget increase in response to digitalization, eft said.
Through digitization, most organizations have shifted their strategy to focus on agility with many others focusing on speed and risk management, according to the report.
“Digitalization is fully entrenched in how supply chain businesses already operate. Organizations are now looking to hone strategies and adjust budgets to ensure they are aligned with the changes taking place,” the report noted.
If eft marks these trends correctly, it looks like these technologies are moving out of early adopter stage and heading into greater wide scale adoption. How is your company using these technologies? What do you think lies ahead for digitalization? Let us know in the comments section below.