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Three Supply Chain Trends to Watch in 2018

By Jeff Schmitz | 01/02/2018 | 7:49 AM

As 2017 has come to a close, we reflect on what we learned last year and what to look forward to in the year to come. As supply chains continue their digital transformations and become more intelligent, they are expected to adopt these three trends:  

1.       Embrace the “on-demand” economy by leveraging the ‘3As’ – Analytics, Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Against the backdrop of the on-demand economy, supply chains are struggling to adapt to changing fulfillment models – which enables customers to get more of what they want, when they want it and how they want it delivered. As a result, supply chains are being challenged to better manage inventory levels and anticipate operational needs in near real-time processing capabilities.

This is why accelerating technology deployments to gain visibility of assets, people and products to understand specific demands is key. Because of this, there is a strong need to modernize the operational and operating procedures of current supply chains by leveraging the ‘3As’ - analytics, automation and artificial Intelligence.


The ‘3As’ will be critical in helping supply chains provide more granular and detailed tracking and tracing of people, process and assets, as well as more compelling and personalized customer experiences.

2.       Rely on critical, real-time data and analytics software to gain visibility for the best next action

The world has become more and more data driven – businesses rely on real-time data to run their operations efficiently and beat the competition. With data becoming more of a requirement, supply chains have shown a willingness to invest in their own systems to take advantage of better and faster data.

An example of a smart supply chain solution that takes data capture to the next level and integrates it with analytics is Zebra’s SmartPack, which uses cutting-edge 3D vision sensors with powerful software to track trailer loading efficiency in real-time, allowing maximum levels of efficiency in transport applications.

3.       Optimize locationing technology for better visibility into smart decision-making

Real-time locationing systems (RTLS) are key to providing effective tracking data with higher accuracy to perform advanced/predictive analytics. According to Zebra’s recent Manufacturing Vision Study, manufacturers are recognizing the value of real-time location tracking technologies and will expand their level of usage from 38 percent to 61 percent by 2022.

Over 55 percent of companies will implement RTLS by 2022, providing the much-needed transparency across their supply chain operations. RTLS allow supply chains to collect critical data about assets, including location, stage, and condition. Today, only 8 percent of manufacturers have real-time monitoring in place throughout the entire manufacturing floor, but this number will soar to 35 percent by 2022.

Supply chains have started leveraging ties between the physical and digital worlds to enhance visibility and mobilize actionable insights that create better customer experiences, drive operational efficiencies and enable new business models. Some are still in the middle of the transformation, but 2018 will be the year they begin aggressively deploying solutions.



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra. Mr. Schmitz most recently served as executive vice president for multiple business units and sales at Spirent Communications where he had previously also held several senior leadership roles including chief marketing officer and vice president of networks & applications. Prior to joining Spirent, Mr. Schmitz held senior marketing positions at Rivulet Communications, Visual Networks and Tellabs Inc. Mr. Schmitz holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and a Master of Science degree in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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