LM Viewpoint: The Technology Issue

We’ve stayed clear of themed issues over the years because each issue is designed to touch on all of the fundamental logistics management elements every month. But when I re-examined the editorial line up that surrounds our annual “Technology Roundtable” and Webcast this month, it seemed ideal to call this “The Technology Issue.”

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In conversation after conversation over the past year, it has become clear that it’s almost impossible to escape the importance technology plays across every aspect of logistics management—and just about every feature this month reflects that fact.

Inside the DC, for example, we’re seeing how complex automation and even robotic systems are being integrated with inventory and order management systems to improve order-fulfillment speeds, while transportation management and improved shipment analytics are now being tied together to visibility tools that offer shippers better control over freight in transit. Of course, all of this—and much more—is being implemented to better meet complex customer requirements ushered in by the digital age.

And while we often share a case study that offers a vibrant picture of innovation in action, so much of the talk around these technologies remains just that: talk. Most of the time we find ourselves intimidated by “buzz” terms and theory, and we fail to grasp the fundamentals of how the technology can improve our logistics management capabilities—even when a solution may be right in front of our eyes.

“Clearly, digitalization will change supply chains, but our understanding of how it will play out is a work in progress,” says editor at large Roberto Michel. “Breaking down some of the enabling technologies should help logistics managers figure out how to embrace this new era.”

With that theme in mind, our Technology Issue sets out to demystify some of the terms and technologies you’ve been reading and hearing about and puts context around what these enablers can do to improve our operations once applied.

And as Michel points out in his piece “Evolution of the digital supply chain”, sometimes even a great technological innovation may just be the improved use of existing systems or a piece of hardware that we put to work every day.

“Overall, the digital supply chain is about how existing systems can be much more aware of what’s developing and smart enough to change the chain’s physical processes for optimal performance,” says Michel. “So much of what needs to be done is simply the optimization of what we already have in place.”

Our “2017 Technology Roundtable” panel echoes Michel’s point in an effort to make the digital transformation appear less daunting to shippers. According to Gartner’s Dwight Klappich, indeed, the technological toolset needed to create the seamless digital logistics network already exists—and in most cases is already sitting on our accessible servers.

“However, we’re finding that logistics and supply chain performance is strongly correlated to the type of relationship the supply chain operation and IT foster,” says Klappich. “Under-performing companies tend to have parochial or contentious relationships between supply chain and IT, as opposed to leaders that have strategic and highly collaborative relationships.”

Keeping and open mind to close the gap between your operation and IT may be the simplest, yet most effective move you can make in your digital journey. “Because digital business is technology-enabled business,” adds Klappich, “companies that do the best at blending the roles of IT and supply chain will lead in digital transformation.


About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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