Across every sphere of business and manufacturing, new digital tools, systems and platforms are upending traditional strategies and approaches.

Fuelled by powerful software systems and smart apps, the digital era is forcing business leaders to adapt and embrace more agile ways of operating. Within global supply chains, digitisation is already disrupting businesses. To identify where and how this impact is being felt, Barloworld Logistics explored two specific digital trends as part of its 2017 supplychainforesight report; namely big data and online marketplaces.

“These two trends are already forcing stakeholders within supply chain management to rethink their strategies, and to integrate digital innovation into daily operations,” says Kate Stubbs, Managing Executive: Business Development & Marketing, Barloworld Logistics.

Shaping Decisions, Shaping Supply Chains

While it may be a now overused phrase, data is evidently the new oil – and it is streaming into every type of business at a rapid pace. This data comes from smart devices, social media, online interfaces and many more digitised forums and functions.

According to research from Frost & Sullivan, as more unstructured data becomes integrated into daily analysis and evolves into structured data, it will undoubtedly lead to enhanced efficiencies and quicker, calculated decision-making within the supply chain. The research firm also notes that growing access to data will mean that analytics will move from reactive to pre-emptive to anticipatory.

The U.S. tech powerhouse Amazon, for example, through its anticipatory shipping model, will know what you want even before you know you want it!

“For logistics and supply chain stakeholders, predictive and prescriptive analytics are already presenting a number of smart applications,” adds Stubbs. “The key is to find efficient ways of integrating such applications and using them to mitigate the risks that new technologies inevitably bring with them.”

Such applications include route optimization in real time; ‘control-on-the-go’ as mobile devices are used to increase enterprise visibility; faster reaction times to supply chain challenges (for example, natural disasters); and product tracking data to understand customer purchasing behaviour and support requirements.

Embracing Online Marketplaces

The second major digital trend will undoubtedly impact brokerage related services within the supply chain. Indeed, it is predicted that two key platforms will disrupt the status quo within logistics: mobile based and online marketplaces.

“With retail already experiencing its own digital transformation, it is unsurprising that supply chain management will have its own digitisation moment,” says Stubbs.

Notably, the emergence of online marketplaces within the supply chain will involve the closer integration of all stakeholders – namely sellers, buyers, freight forwarders and financial institutions…all connected to each other through an open, online platform.

As data is leveraged ever more effectively, mobile based services and platforms will soon be able to aggregate a network of local couriers, matching individual deliveries in real time to the optimum carrier according to who is the nearest, available, quickest and best suited to fulfil that specific job.

“With big data and the emergence of online platforms to better utilise resources within the supply chain, there will soon be very clear winners and losers in the equation,” concludes Stubbs. “As always, the winners will be those who have the vision, commitment and skills to harness this ongoing digital transformation…”

Kate Stubbs
Managing Executive: Business Development and Marketing, Barloworld Logistics