ISM2018 Blog

Looking into the Future of Supply Management

May 03, 2018 / by Charlotte de Brabandt


Supply Chain of the Future

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read supply chain of the future? Is it blockchain, digital technologies, AI, humanoid robots, cognitive computing such as machine learning or autonomous intelligent systems? Is it Sophia - who recently became the first robot recognized with a citizenship in Saudi Arabia?

Machines, software, heartless hardware are all around us.

In my opinion, we are living in a time of amazing progress with digital technologies—those that have computer hardware, software and networks at their core. The transformations brought about by digital technology will be greatly beneficial ones, they’re allowing us to overcome many limitations rapidly and to open new frontiers with unprecedented speed. Quick and astonishing digitalization is likely to bring economic rather than environmental disruption, stemming from the fact that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for their work force. Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead.

Everyone is questioning the future, what might the professions of the future be, how will it affect, for instance, procurement – the area that I work in. What role will technologies have, how will it impact the working life and labor market? The speed of automation has increased in the advent of driverless cars, pilotless drones and automated retail systems like ATMs, restaurants, kiosks and self-service checkouts. And who knows maybe we will soon be able to pay with bitcoins via blockchain technology. I believe, these developments emphasize the emergence of autonomous intelligent systems taking the form of humanoid robots.

The technological transition is becoming one of the most valuable commodities on the planet and every country should have or need to have a strategy around intelligent systems. In fact, I quote Web summit 20171 that intelligent systems are truly the new oil. About how oil has really transformed the 20th century. Technology is going to transform the future.

Humanoid robots are driven by the fuel of autonomous intelligent systems. We have gone through these transformations before and every time we are going through those transformations, I think about what’s going to change, what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen to what we know?

As GEP2 stated: `Supply chain is still an untouched territory of the future developments, but there is a great future in the field of supply management and how we will interact with new technologies and innovations ahead of us. I strongly believe IoT (Internet of Things) will change the future of supply chain drastically. Gartner predicts, that by 2020 more than 50% of major business processes will incorporate some form of IoT.

How I see supply management evolve in the future, as GEP mentioned IoT will disrupt supply chain and take it to a whole new level...

  1. Asset tracking, allowing professionals to monitor temperature controls or monitor time spent to transit.
  2. Fleet Management, enabling data tracking including traffic situation, driving patterns or weather conditions. This will allow us to connect with all fleets.
  3. Inventory and Warehouse Management, through IoT we will be able to track specific items, equipment and vehicles within the warehouse facility. Here we will be relying on Bluetooth technology or motion sensors.
  4. Vendor Management, by monitoring how vendors are handling their products. Logistic operators will enable high quality outputs.
  5. Predictive Maintenance, will get enhanced through smart sensors allowing us to predict services well in advance.

But furthermore, I also think that blockchain technologies may end up transforming supply chain. Making supply chain more transparent, as a customer being able to follow end to end.

The maturity of AI technologies will steadily impact the supply chain function. The question is no longer if, but rather when. Adoption will be quicker with some technologies e.g. robotics and the impact will be powerful and transformative.

Communication of the Future

In my opinion, good communication is the most vital asset you need to have to be successful in business. My father always told me that languages are the most powerful tool to complete a successful negotiation to aid good communication. I can say for a fact that he abides by this rule. He doesn’t even travel without knowing a few words at least of the language of the country where he is travelling to. He has always put function and ease of use above everything else when it comes to using technology. He is an entrepreneur, a GP and negotiator, but with no thorough technology background. If you met him on the street when he wasn’t going to work, he would be reading books to learn new languages with certain language expressions. However, most days, and I remember my dad heading off to work in the morning, he’d be ready to test his language skills with his patients and at business meetings- hoping to receive a better deal or offer when the customers or suppliers can speak in their own language. This would make the meetings and negotiations a lot more successful.

As Chairman Alexander Konovalov3 mentioned: `With 7 billion people in the world, there are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. However, about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most popular language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. There are 1.2 Billion people in the world that speak that language.

Did you know that only 5 % of the world will speak English as a first language by 2050 and only 13% of the people around the world speak English? 87% Don’t.

I believe, companies lose so many customers a year by not being able to communicate properly with each other and there are often misunderstandings. What can we do? Learn all the languages? Technologies are designed to make our lives easier and more comfortable. Today, I want to inspire you on the technological transition, which we are experiencing and how technology will transform our future and impact our lives. Humanoid robots and autonomous intelligent systems are all around us and it is our own personal choice how we go about them. How we accept or receive them.

Important is that we never lose the capability to communicate with one another – at an intelligent quotient (IQ), love quotient (LQ) and also on an emotional quotient (EQ) level. Check out this video where Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba talks about this new quotient4:

How can negotiation and communication be improved through autonomous intelligent systems?

Writer's Note: These opinions are my own and I am not speaking on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.


1 Web Summit 2017, Keynote CEO IBM

2 GEP, 2018 Blockchain in the Real World – The Promise, the Progress, and the Hype

3 Chairman Alexander Konovalov, TIW AG (Technologies Improving the World), Swiss CRM Forum 2016

4 Jack Ma - IQ, EQ & LQ

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