Gartner Predicts the Future of Supply Chain Technology

26 January 2021
Contributor: Sarah Hippold

Emerging and maturing supply chain technology is a major source of competitive advantage.

Digital remains a strategic imperative for supply chain organisations. In the Gartner 2019 Supply Chain Technology User Wants and Needs Survey, a majority of respondents claimed digital as their core strategy and focal point and supply chain management technology as a way to get ahead of the competition.

“Take note of these Gartner 2021 predictions to advance digital maturity and business performance.”

“It’s a good thing that supply chain technology gets the attention it deserves,” says Dwight Klappich, VP Analyst, Gartner. “However, emerging supply chain management technologies are often overhyped, and leaders must aim to fully understand the risks and opportunities associated with each new technology.”

The next three to five years will usher in not only an increase in the adoption of digital supply chain technologies but also new, more IT-focused roles that supply chain leaders must integrate. Heads of supply chain technology must take note of these Gartner 2021 predictions to advance digital maturity and business performance.

Through 2023, demand for robotic goods-to-person systems will quadruple to help enforce social distancing in warehouses.

Robotic goods-to-person (G2P) systems fulfill two key demands of warehouse operators. They address the need for social distancing by moving goods from one person to another — and they perform this task in such an efficient way that they increase productivity and improve storage density along the way.

Read more: Focus for Smart Factories Turns to Managing People

“While the social distancing aspect is an imminent benefit, robotic G2P systems will provide value long after the pandemic is over,” says Klappich. “This technology is advanced and economical, and can easily be tailored to work in every kind of warehouse environment.”

By 2023, 50% of global product-centric enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility platforms.

Once shipments leave a warehouse, customers and consumers have little visibility into the status of their orders and shipments. Real-time transportation visibility platforms address that problem, and the market is projected to grow rapidly in the next couple of years.

The market is highly fragmented, however. Supply chain technology leaders must conduct careful due diligence to identify the right technology partner to work with on visibility projects. Vendors should be selected based on regional and modal coverage and how well they align to the company’s existing carrier network.

Through 2023, less than 5% of control-tower-like deployments will fulfill their end-to-end potential due to mindset and cultural obstacles.

Interest and demand for supply chain control towers is high — and growing. Still, the number of companies that have deployed and fully exploited control towers across their end-to-end supply chain is small.

Read more: Make a Compelling Case for Your Digital Supply Chain Transformation

Why? Most supply chain organisations are functionally siloed and therefore measured within their respective domains and roles. A significant end-to-end transformation that would make full use of all capabilities of a control tower would require a complete shift in mindset. And from a technology standpoint, it would require a digital supply chain twin. Most companies are not ready to take that step quite yet.

By 2025, more than 50% of supply chain organisations will have a technology leadership role reporting directly to the chief supply chain officer.

The Gartner Supply Chain Technology Users Wants and Needs Survey found that 36% of the companies responding indicated technology leadership reporting directly within the supply chain organisation. This percentage will rise with the progression of digital supply chain initiatives.

Read more: Gartner Keynote: Adapting Supply Chain Strategies, Investments and Leadership Style

Relying solely on enterprise IT for all technological needs can slow down the digitalisation of the supply chain. A dedicated technology leader within the supply chain organisation is in a much better position to advance digital transformation initiatives and create the optimal technology mix.

Through 2024, 50% of supply chain organisations will invest in applications that support artificial intelligence and advanced analytics capabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for supply chain organisations to seek tools that help them make better and more informed decisions faster. That’s why leading supply chain organisations use artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics to dig through the vast amounts of data they generate to understand what is happening in their business now and — more important — what is likely to happen in the future.

Companies will continue to invest in applications that embed, augment or apply AI and advanced analytics tools. This may be to address foundational areas such as data quality or connecting disparate silos, or strategic objectives such as migrating to more automated, resilient and smarter applications.

Supply chain leaders need to adopt a broad and holistic perspective when it comes to AI and advanced analytics. These technologies are increasingly ubiquitous and there are many ways to apply them — such as for data mining, in visibility tools and autonomous transportation — and to enhance customer retention.