I interviewed Nick Vyas who discussed Future Trends in Supply Chain.
It’s good to speak with you today, Nick, and I look forward to hearing your views on future trends in supply chain. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?
My pleasure, Dustin. Nick Vyas, Director, Center for Global Supply Chain Management at University of Southern California, USC, Marshall School of Business. I also teach Application of Lean Six Sigma, lean supply chain management and supply chain management in international settings.
Thank you. My first question is: What do you believe are the future trends in supply chain?
There are several things that are happening concurrently. Few dimensions of technology is rapidly evolving, and rapid evolution will have a significant impact of how the supply chain will look three, five, ten years from now. If you look at it in terms of—the biggest paradigm shift is about smartphone and mobile technology. I think new technology platform has created a huge paradigm shift, which focuses on how technology adoption changes the priority in company. If you start to review its impact in the areas, such as cross-channel inventory optimization, distribution-level management, wireless devices and applications, integrated product catalog, or even product-information management. All of these things will have to be integrated, as the point of sale in the future will be multimode, inventory will have to be streamlined, single pooled and made visible across each of the pipelines almost making it as “Glass Pipeline.”
If you continue on from social media and smartphone combination, there are three key technology drivers that I feel are really going to change the trends. First, the drone-based delivery and its impact on transportation network. Some of the robotic technology application has already been introduced in to supply chain such as ASAR modules as well as robotic load and unload modules. I think the drone-based delivery has some merit to it, especially in the tier-one, densely populated areas as well as some of the remote locations where last mile infrastructure is difficult. I think it can be very exciting to see how this is viewed and adopted into mainstream supply chain. Second technological trend that I am really bullish about is Google Glass and voice-technology integrations, meaning: How does the future warehouse distribution, replenishment functions can be integrated by having pantry capabilities, where your peak orders and your location details are all viewed on the horizon with your Google Glasses integrated with the voice command technology. This can have a significant impact in terms of how we manage the cheaper, better faster evolving needs of the ecommerce supply chain. And last but not least,which I’m very interested about, is this 3-D printing.This technology front can have a huge impact on supply chain in terms of how we define traditional view of “design to delivery” network concept. How we plan our sourcing, network design and transportation network design decisions. Once the economy of scale has been achieved, this can literally change the entire supply chain design decision requirement.
And how should companies respond to these trends?
In terms of the earlier conversation on social media, I think companies certainly need to start to look at it and understand the opportunities that exist in this area. They need to find ways to manage real-time inventory monitoring. How do you monitor supply performance (KPI) dynamically in real-time? Management must find ways to stay ahead of the change curve. In order to be assimilated with the mobile technology and blurring lines of supply chain verticals, you definitely have to look at the exception management, focus on technology that allows you to have real-time visibility across the span of your supply chain. The company needs to adapt the agility that comes with this visibility and participate rather than shying away from it.
Thank you. Did we cover all the points you wanted to make about the future of supply chains?
Yes. In terms of some of the new technologies that we talked about;
Drone-based deliveries, the 3-D printing, and Google Glass voice-technology adoptions—those are still early stages, so I don’t think we will see something emerging right away, but my guess is that we will see some activity in the very near—two, three years’ time—horizon. As you know, six states in the U.S. have been granted a testing site permits by the FAA to start using, start testing their drone-based applications, so things are moving in that direction. 3-D printing also has some prototyping applications happening, and Google Glass is obviously, they’re going in to production early, second quarter 2014.
Thanks, Nick, for sharing these views on the future of supply chain.
Thank you, it’s my pleasure.
About Nick Vyas
Director, USC Marshall Center for Global Supply Chain Management