Despite our supply chains consisting of information processes and financial processes, it is still reasonable for supply chain leaders to pay extra attention to their physical assets. Issues such as the actual integrity and quality of goods, the safety and security of their transportation networks and inventory holding costs (even though their notoriety is very much misinterpreted).
However, in today’s world, threats to our supply chain are no longer exclusive to the realm of natural disasters or factory fires. With the rapid prominence of online shopping and surging exchange of sensitive information, the disruption in the digital space is becoming increasingly frequent, creative, deeply concerning, and very, very real.
Let’s just cover several examples and what has been done to keep them from derailing your supply chain.
Competitors Utilizing Internet-of-Things (IoT)
According to a report on digital disruptors, there are now at least 8 million items that register in the IoT ecosystem. This was a large, 30% increase from last year, resulting in many tech giants increasingly investing in IoT analytics.
Some examples of these innovations include hyper-efficient fleet operations, intelligent traffic signals and more. If you think your competitors are managing their networks with superhuman intelligence, think again. It’s more likely the have used the IoT to maximum advantage.
Easing Processing Speed via Edge Computing
Despite all their advantages, both big data and the cloud still suffer the age-old tech problem of processing speed. The ideal IoT situations described above are still difficult to achieve because sending data to-and-from the cloud contains inherent inefficiencies. The delays that result can certainly be compared to actual delays in production and delivery.
Hence, a new concept called ‘edge computing’ has stepped in to address this issue. Its name is derived from the idea of processing at the very edge of a network.
Industry biggies, such as HPE and CISCO, have already rolled out hardware and software to make this happen. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts 40% of all computing to happen at the edge in the next couple of years.
Bypassing Connectivity Issues with The 5G network
Poor connectivity in your HQ can lead to larger disruptions sinces messages to your network are delayed. This goes for any IoT ecosystem you have set up as well.
Hence, 5G (a.k.a. fifth-generation wireless) joins edge computing among the list of new technologies that will further empower IoT.
Contrary to popular opinion, the nature of 5G doesn’t make it an upgrade over its 4G predecessor. It’s actually somewhat different beast that focuses on solid connectivity instead of high bandwidth. As a result though, its use has empowered the connection of devices even in the most remote areas of the planet!
As of 2017, the global cyber security market is now valued at over 130 billion USD. That figure alone should indicate the variety of threats posed by hackers and their countless methods. It also means there is no avoidance strategy to counter them, only prevention. No matter how ‘off-the-grid’ you think your business is, you will have a vulnerability that hackers will exploit.
Take this article on a recently named hacker collective known as Magecart. They are just another in a long line of groups that have targeted e-commerce websites and attempt to siphon off credit card information via malware. This malware could be in any interface such as the customer service chat bots or a vulnerable area of your site’s checkout page.
Now, imagine what would happen if word spread that your e-commerce site was now the site of stolen identities? We all know how fast bad press can travel. It’d be the equivalent of having a chain of your front-end stores shutting down, wouldn’t it? That’s why it only makes sense that your security detail encompasses not just physical assets but digital ones.
Securing Transactions via Blockchain
Another way to secure sensitive corporate information is through the rise of blockchain. Rather than give hackers a single target to steal data, said data is instead scattered across a network.
This innovative ledger system is already seeing plenty of use now, in 2018! It has covered not only the financial industry but also healthcare, entertainment, and hospitality.
Dubai is rapidly moving towards being the first ever blockchain empowered government by 2020.
Artificial Intelligence to Drive Complex Automation
More companies are moving to streamline more and more complex processes. This has lead to a stronger demand for stronger A.I. that is tantamount to necessity rather than curiosity.
With AI’s market size doubling up from $2420 million to $4066 million, one can no longer dismiss it as a fancy of science-fiction. Doing so will only undermine the potential of your manufacturing capacity and lead to results worse than doomsday Skynet scenarios. (Imagine being the only company who manufactures mundane items by hand whereas other companies can perfectly replicate via 3D printing.)
Highly competent forms of AI already exist in the likes of Alexa and Siri. But beyond that, they also have counterparts in big business processes such as the Salesforce Einstein CRM, IBM Watson, SAP Leonardo and various customer service chatbots.
Using Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) to Increase Digitization
Have you ever stepped into an office building, realized that there are fewer offices with filing cabinets when you last visited?
For some still clinging to the outdated management styles, it is an unsettling sight. It is a sight then followed by the struggles of a supply chain still digging through mounds of paper while their competitors use electronic documentation, and a single version of the truth, to keep things moving.
Yet for most up-to-speed corporations, it is but a natural result of XaaS. From the dawn of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), we have now reached an age where even entire frameworks can be constructed on the cloud. The market now encompasses software, infrastructure, and everything else.
You can now conduct rapid prototyping and visualization. Entire workforces are now more mobile because all their office tools can be accessed from the cloud.
Business Apps Created with Low Code Development Platforms (LCDP)
LCDP is a surprisingly long name for what is essentially a simplified way for creating apps. Instead of raw coding, these platforms allow customers to create said apps via the drag-and-drop of basic configurations.
These same platforms have been predicted to net a total revenue of $6.1 billion by 2018, and over $10 billion by 2019. Care to guess why? It is because corporations can no longer afford holding back their digital initiatives even when they lack programming talent to carry it through.
Therefore, even the convenient assumption of needing coders is only hurting your organization’s overall progress.
Before, people used to dread the crowd that often formed in anticipation of a major discount day. Look to the controversial scuffles that occur during Black Friday or the occasional brawls at the bargain bin, a regular occurrence at Aldi and the like.
Today, most people think that has been averted because shopping online takes away the need for space to crowd.
Alas, the reality is that this space simply expanded via migration into digital. This space still has limits. The biggest evidence is the now notorious server loads and waiting times during major online promotional campaigns (such as Click Frenzy and Cyber Monday).
And once again, you can see the easy comparison to a physical store. The only difference is that the store is larger as millions of users click and place orders all at once. Imagine the sheer loads of data that this generates and how much storage they require! (That is not even including the logistical implications should orders exceed capacities for delivery, inventory and production.) Managers must learn to invest in their server capacity just as they would consider expanding the carrying capacity of their fleets.
The worst part is that most managers respond to most of the above scenarios by only lamenting the fact that they are not computer science PhDs or I.T. engineers.
You don’t need to be either. All you need to know is that these are threats of disruption and should be treated with the same seriousness as an incoming typhoon, a political or economic threat or a simple labour strike.
You need to treat disasters in the digital space like real disasters when mapping out the ideal state of your supply chain. These are risks and hiring competent heads for your technical and I.T. departments to manage these risks is just the beginning.
Your visibility needs to extend to this space. Because if it hasn’t yet, those disruptions in the virtual world will have severe consequences in the real one.