The Short-term and Long-term Future of Supply Chain Management

Meagan Douglas
Thu, Dec 18, 2014

The future of manufacturing in the U.S. will likely be dominated by huge advances in technology. In the short term, technology will revolve around the cloud and the Internet of things, while in the long term, technology will enable computers and robots to do just about all the work that humans are doing now.

The driving factor in all of this is a constantly building need on the part of companies to do more with less, Saurabh Sharma, senior analyst at Infrastructure Solutions, told Manufacturing and Logisitics IT. In other words, companies are finding newer and better ways to reduce overhead and become leaner. On the other hand, because of the increasing importance of data security and the growing number of breaches in companies as securely protected as Target and Adobe, government regulations will continue to grow. Businesses will have to find new ways to track their products. The Internet of things will mean that factories will continue to rely further on computers to regulate themselves.

In light of all this, it will become increasingly crucial for companies to monitor their supply chains using tools like UPC codes and other software solutions that monitor everything coming into a factory and track everything that leaves. Computers will rely on this data to program what will happen in the factory on a given day.

The Far Future Will See Even More Technology
In the year 2029, most of the manufacturing jobs in the U.S. will be centered on programming and understanding computer code, according to Distribution Business Management Journal. What this means for companies is that early adopters will get ahead of the game much faster than those who start late. Within 20 years, computers will be able to understand spoken words and learn on their own, the futurist Ray Kurzweil estimated in his book The Singularity is Near. This sounds rather extreme, but at any event, technology is quickly growing, and companies historically have either adapted to changes or faced the consequences when they found themselves unable to compete.

Before that happens, small incremental changes will likely impact the way businesses are run. This means that there will be phases during which companies would have the option to buy into new technological innovations or not. It will most likely be best for businesses if they invest in new technology.

What to do in the present
Some of the technologies available now that companies are using to innovate include radio frequency identification (RFID), according to RFID Journal, which allows manufacturing companies to automate much of their loading jobs. A business simply has to hook up the proper technology and truckloads of merchandise can be quickly scanned and input into a computer. RFID can be used along with barcodes and barcode scanners for keeping records of what comes into a factory. The only difference is the RFID uses radio waves, so that data is automatically collected by machine, instead of scanned with barcode readers.

Factory managers can use this information to keep a close watch on their supply chain, and they can take advantage of any future technological advancements that come in the way of big data and the Internet of things, so that when automation becomes much more fully integrated into the daily life of a factory, those who have the right data tracking software, ​such as the products made by RFgen, will be in a much better position to adapt.

Technology is changing so quickly and radically that within 20 years, just about everything people understand about factory automation will change. The beginning of this is already happening, and it would be a very good idea to get on board with the new normal right away.

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