The “digital company” that utilises the “internet of things” will lead supply chain innovation over the next decade, a conference was told.
Noha Tohamy, research vice president at Gartner, said the internet of things (devices that are connected to each other) was “blurring the lines” between people, technology and data, resulting in increased automation of processes.
Speaking at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in London, she gave a scenario where an ice cream manufacturer in the future would be able to automatically detect if a batch was not sweet enough, halt shipments from the factory and redirect driverless delivery vehicles to other factories where production would be increased to make up the shortfall.
Tohamy said demand for this ice cream could fluctuate, driven by unpredictable social media such as a tweet sent by a celebrity mentioning the brand and picked up by wearable internet-connected devices such as watches and jewellery.
She also gave the example of the "Tweet Pee" nappy that included a monitor that detected when a nappy needed changing and sent a tweet to the parent's phone.
“Supply chain will lead in the next decade,” she said.
“The internet of things is blurring the lines between the digital, people, places and things, automated systems and data. As the line continues to blur we see the rise of the digital business.
“The digital business is going to make supply chain processes faster, better, more efficient, more profitable and sometimes autonomous.”
However, Tohamy said many firms were a long way from this scenario. “For most companies Excel remains the main software for managing supply chains.”
Debra Hofman, also a research vice president at Gartner, said functions such as procurement, logistics and inventory management often operated in silos with not enough coordination or focus on the end result.
“For most of us, we operate in silos,” she said. “Purchasing cares about driving down unit cost. How do they do that? By buying in volume. Is it the right volume? Who knows?
“We are in business to deliver service to our customers and to do so so we stay in business – that’s it.”
☛ Want the latest procurement and supply chain news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the Supply Management Daily