If you’re involved in eCommerce operations, you know how complex and challenging supply chain management can be. From sourcing raw materials to shipping the final product, it involves numerous steps essential to finish operations. A slight mistake or delay can lead to a domino effect, significantly impacting the customer experience.
The eCommerce industry experienced massive growth in recent years, sped up by the pandemic (source: rush.ph). This boom made it critical for businesses to have efficient and streamlined supply chain operations.
Fortunately, technological innovations and trends have transformed how you can manage your eCommerce supply chain. Here are seven technologies you can integrate into your operations.
7 Applicable Technologies for ECommerce Supply Chain Management
1. Automation and robotics
One of the most significant innovations in supply chain management is automation and robotics. Automation lets businesses make their processes faster and with fewer mistakes.
From the production line to warehouse tasks, industrial functions were the only things companies were automating for a long time. However, with the digital revolution came the need to improve digital systems and channels (source: spiralytics.com). Now, a person can make an order, pay, and receive their package without anything passing through the hands of a human being.
Robotics are also continuously improving. Amazon’s famous automated warehouses have robot arms, drones, and carts that tirelessly transport, move, package, and sort items. They support a human staff, allowing them to achieve more in less time.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) sensors allow devices to share information through a shared internet connection. Businesses can track and monitor products and environmental data throughout the supply chain in close to real-time.
These sensors allow you to track location, temperature, humidity, and other vital parameters. Sellers can use IoT information to optimize supply chain routes, ensure product quality, and reduce losses. For example, Nestlé uses IoT sensors in their trucks to ensure product quality and food safety.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
With the explosion of digital users and uses came a staggering amount of data to sort through and analyze. It would be impossible for people to keep up with all the information they manually produce daily. Thankfully, they don’t have to.
With AI and ML tools, businesses can get insights into various subjects, like consumer behavior. AI-powered inventory management systems can help companies manage their stock levels and never go through overstocking or running out of goods again.
ML algorithms can analyze mountains of data in seconds, such as shipping and delivery data, to identify patterns and anomalies, letting sellers identify and address issues in real-time. AI and ML can also optimize shipping routes, improving delivery times and enhancing the customer experience.
4. Cloud computing
Cloud computing uses computer resources, such as processing power, over the internet instead of on a physical device, like a personal computer. With cloud computing, you can access these resources from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection.
In eCommerce supply chain management, cloud computing enables businesses to access critical data and applications from anywhere, anytime. Cloud-based management systems can help enterprises track inventory, manage orders, and monitor shipping and delivery processes in real-time.
This ability can lead to more efficient and effective supply chain operations, allowing businesses to quickly scale or adjust their operations without expanding their physical silhouette.
5. Augmented reality (AR)
AR technology overlays digital information in the real world using cameras, sensors, and computer-generated to enhance or augment the user’s experience. AR differs from virtual reality, which immerses the user in a wholly digital environment.
For supply chains, workers outfitted with AR glasses or mobile devices can operate with more understanding of product information, order details, and inventory levels. This advantage can improve warehouse efficiency and picking accuracy, allowing users to gain information without interrupting their tasks.
On the consumer side, AR can allow customers to visualize the product in their homes or visit virtual showrooms and fitting rooms, letting them get a better picture of products before they purchase without entering a physical store.
6. Autonomous vehicles
Autonomous or self-driving vehicles are a technology that can operate without human intervention. In supply chain management, autonomous vehicles can include self-driving trucks, drones, and other delivery vehicles. Owners can program specific routes and schedules to drive uninterruptedly until the fuel runs out.
These vehicles can improve the efficiency of supply chains by reducing delivery times and road accidents caused by human error. For lighter packages, drones are an option that doesn’t need roads. They can go from warehouse to customer in a straight line.
Despite the potential benefits, autonomous vehicles still face some challenges that suppliers must overcome. They don’t have a comprehensive regulatory framework yet, so users still question their safety and reliability. Additionally, specific technical requirements, like navigation systems and data security, are still in development.
Blockchains are transparent ledgers made by all the participants of the said ledger, which means that any changes need to undergo a peer review, making them tamper-proof forever. People mostly use blockchains for recording assets and transactions, but they can technically store any information.
The logistics and industrial industries often experience lost or stolen shipments. They can benefit from a transparent, traceable ledger immensely. A shared record of transactions allows businesses to track the movement of goods from supplier to customer, ensuring that they verify and record each step.
For example, Walmart is a large company that incorporated blockchain tech into its supply chain, allowing it to observe the 200-plus data points it needs to track for each shipment. This system enables the company to address food safety issues and prevent problems from cascading.
Transcending Supply Chain Limitations with Technology
The eCommerce industry is rapidly evolving, and supply chain management is becoming increasingly complex. Technology has significantly transformed the space, enabling businesses to keep up with rapidly increasing demand (source: vessell.ph).
By adopting these latest innovations in your supply chain management efforts, you can decrease the time it takes your products to get to customers without hiring more people or expanding your operation.