What is a digital supply chain and what it does?
Is it just for robots?
The week has seen the release of the Digital Supply Chain Platform by Google and it represents an opportunity to embrace — if you are an early adopter — or to watch carefully as the latest solution of a much needed solution to integrate the real world with the virtual one. Digital twin and digital supply chain have naturally evolved into a solution as the need for transformation is a driver for business survival.
Why this is important
It may not be evident but the impact of a Supply Chain — the sequence of events delivering value to the customer — in the global warming is huge. Think of shipments across ocean with a huge carbon footprint from end to end as part of the product design and total cost and carbon associated with the life cycle of the product or from conception to disposal, proper disposal that is.
A digital supply chain may be the opportunity not only to manage the sustainability of companies with a global or local presence, but it is also the ultimate resource to stay afloat in a competition where agility and capacity to adapt are key attributes. If we put together the sustainable component of a carbon conscious corporate neighbor with the business agility required to react to the moving target of a consumer with endless options a digital supply chain or supply chain digital twin is the solution.
Some references may not hurt
When Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) was added to assets for electronic tracking during transit or storage a predecessor of the digital supply chain was in the making. A signal representing the state or condition of the asset of interest in terms of location and probably integrity was available and the need for monitoring was transformed from a visual confirmation to a virtual one.
While these sensors were adding capacities for tracking and surveillance to assets across the supply chain, data originated from them was gathered in supply chain management applications not just for monitoring but for analytics and value exploded from knowledge that could be consumed in smarter ways to get insights and opportunities for improvement.
The big picture
The next natural step was to aggregate the signals from the supply chain, from assets to containers, carriers and distribution centers, warehouses, and transit between them for an integrated view — a digital one — of the state of the network at any given time. Applications like SAP Advanced Planning Optimization managed to provide for many years a virtual representation of the network capacity to fulfill demand but it will be replaced by new technologies in 5 years. Time to deal with the technical debt.
There are several offerings of technology solutions to the supply chain opportunity or how to manage a wide, persistent and exposed process with data coming from everywhere. And they are adopting Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence to deal with the complexity of such a particular value stream given the volume and diversity of data involved.
Finally, what it does
A digital supply chain deals with integration of data coming from and going to a diverse list of domains from private, to vendor’s, to public and in doing so it is capable to provide insights to react in presence or in anticipation of events avoiding or containing disruptions while keeping the demands fulfilled. Easier said than done, right?
But this is coming from a long series of developments finally coming to this plateau where virtualization will demand capacities in the digital supply chain teams to manage it. Providing those resources are available with abstraction and innovation in the skills mix.
I am looking for a VR gear set to start looking after my digital supply chain twin. It may look like a game but it is work.
Digital Supply Chain Management