There's no doubt that cloud technology has transformed supply chain management and logistics operations. While the cloud has played an integral role in supply chain efficiency for the past few years, it's unquestionably a mainstay. As the end of 2017 draws nearer, reviewing the impact the cloud has had on supply chain trends provides valuable clues on changes that are yet to come.
Advanced analytics and data-driven decision-making driven by IoT
One of the biggest boons for the supply chain industry made possible by cloud computing is the ability to leverage powerful analytics to make smarter decisions, speed logistics, and enhance both the efficiency and accuracy of the flow of products through the supply chain. In 2017, supply chain organizations have abundant opportunities to leverage analytics at every turn.
One particular trend that's making analytics both faster and more readily accessible is the proliferation of the internet of things (IoT). Gone are the days of manual data entry and the need for humans to aggregate and analyze data from multiple sources. With the rise of IoT, devices are cloud-enabled and connected, automatically transmitting essential business data to centralized systems, where it can be machine-analyzed and translated into actionable insights. Of course, the decision-making is still up to humans, but supply chain management (SCM) professionals leveraging the capabilities of IoT can make data-driven decisions more rapidly than ever – informed by real-time data.
Better cloud security for a more secure supply chain
In the early days of cloud computing, enterprises were often hesitant adopters, doubting the security of data not directly under the company's control on premises. In 2017, however, those concerns are gradually subsiding. Cloud providers are stepping up to the plate with robust infrastructure security offerings, and many public, private, and hybrid cloud providers are compliant with major regulatory standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, FedRAMP, SOX, and more.
Companies are still responsible for securing their own data in the cloud. However, regulatory bodies are increasingly aware of the value of cloud technology and updated standards are beginning to outline compliance requirements in the cloud context, making it easier for organizations to adopt cloud technology with confidence. There is also an ample selection of third-party cloud security providers that can aid supply chain and logistics companies in securing their data in the cloud.
Supply chain management moves to SaaS applications
The rise of the cloud has led to widespread growth in SaaS (software as a service) applications across nearly every industry. As traditional SCM applications have moved to the cloud, supply chain organizations are relying on SaaS applications more than ever.
The benefits of SaaS compared to traditional, on-premises software are many. First, SaaS apps are more accessible, meaning supply chain and logistics professionals can access critical data and applications both on the road and in the office, from any connected device. Affordability is also a plus. By hosting data securely in the cloud and paying only for the storage and infrastructure they need as they need it, organizations can eliminate the need for maintaining on-site data centers, which are not only costly but have technology that quickly becomes outdated.
Plus, SaaS applications are easier to manage. Software is updated centrally – and information is updated in real time – meaning employees on the road or in other locations always have access to the most up to date information. There are many SaaS applications for warehouse management as well as SCM software apps, allowing companies to manage the entire supply chain from the cloud.
Automation boosts supply chain efficiency
Automation is also increasingly within reach for supply chain organizations of all sizes thanks to the cloud and related technologies. Processes once performed manually – from data collection to the sharing of information both within and outside of the company – can now be completely automated, requiring little to no human intervention.
While automating too much too soon can be risky, the benefits of automation are difficult to ignore. The key is to carefully evaluate the manual processes that can be optimized with partial or complete automation while still maintaining process integrity.
Integrated organizations are predicted to outperform the competition
The cloud has also streamlined integration, making it simpler than ever before for companies to have fully integrated software stacks for managing every aspect of the organization. By integrating applications, a company's software stack can function much like one single, central system.
Integrated software also facilitates the sharing of data, further reducing manual processes and enhancing an organization's data, enabling companies to glean more actionable insights, thanks to a comprehensive view of all the metrics that matter. According to IRMS360.com, integrated companies are outpacing the competition by 20 percent. Open-source and SaaS platforms make connecting various enterprise systems a simple task, and as integration capabilities are in high demand, many software vendors are baking in popular integrations out of the box.
So how can supply chain organizations get on the leading edge of these technology trends? First, embrace the power of big data and provide the technology needed to capitalize on it. That means equipping assets with barcode labels, QR codes, or RFID labels, supplying employees with wearable tech, and giving your teams ready access to real-time data in the field and on-site by making the move from legacy, on-premises applications to SaaS alternatives.
Choose software applications that integrate seamlessly with your other systems and solutions, which will streamline the sharing of data in real time throughout departments. When you're ready to take automation further, an evaluation of your existing processes is in order to determine what existing manual processes can be further optimized by automating some or all of the process.
Companies that take advantage of the latest technology and trends made possible by the cloud will be better positioned to adopt newer technologies that are on the horizon. By staying on the leading edge of technology adoption, you'll level the playing field with larger competitors and be poised for success moving into 2018.