According to Forbes magazine, the Web Summit in Lisbon is the best technology conference in the world and it is attended by both major technology groups such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google or SAP, but also by thousands of start-ups from around the world who come to pitch their ideas and try to raise funds from hundreds of investors.
Check our 4 innovations that are transforming Supply Chain video below (activate automatic subtitle in english)
This conference lasted 4 days with hundreds of workshops, meetings, presentations and evenings. I will try to save you time and also money because the ticket costs between 700 and 1500 euros by presenting 4 innovations that I think can really impact our supply chain and logistics of tomorrow.
Innovation 1 : AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning
We’ve heard a lot about AI, artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning. We still have a lot of marketing around these buzzwords but we also had very interesting presentations, especially from Amazon who presented solutions to automate and greatly improve your forecasting quality.
What I have noticed is that there are a lot of companies working on this subject with solutions that are increasingly simple and accessible and that will allow you to manage many more products in a much more precise manner. If you are working today, in forecasting or demand planning, I would bet a lot on these new subjects of machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop new skills and implement these new processes in companies.
Innovation 2 : Chatbots
In the second trend, we have heard a lot about “Chatbots” with a lot of startups and innovative solutions on this subject. Personally, I animated a customer service (a customer service department) and I had a lot of requests from my customers and suppliers about the quantity available, the arrival date of the product or extremely basic information and I find it very interesting to develop chatbots in supply chain and logistics to allow teams to spend much less time on basic tasks and more time analyzing and accompanying your customers on much more complex problems.
Among all these solutions we have once again Amazon who was really active on this conference and who presented a new service called Amazon Lex which will allow you to quickly set up a chatbot with your customers or suppliers. When I say quickly, it is only if you are already in the cloud and you already have all your data available online. Of course, if you are working on an old ERP like S400 or Excel, it will be much more complicated to set up. So I invite you to migrate your data to a modern system first and then implement innovative solutions.
Innovation 3 : AR (Augmented Reality)
Companies such as DHL, for example, have started to use augmented reality to train their teams in different warehouse processes such as driving forklifts or loading/unloading goods. In any case, I see this as a real opportunity to improve the quality of our supply chain and logistics training. I find that they are still not very fun and it could be very interesting to be able to visit suppliers’ factories, warehouses and even customers’ stores to better understand the processes and improve performance.
Recording trainings with augmented reality will be a first step but clearly the target will be to use it in real life to accompany our manual jobs such as picking up packages or preparing orders for a final customer. I have already tested augmented reality solutions for warehouse picking with google glass. I still find the results quite disappointing but I am convinced that this technology will continue to evolve, especially with the billions invested in the video game industry. I think it will really benefit logistics, and maybe even ABCSupplyChain will one day offer training in augmented reality.
Innovation 4 : ROBOTS
The latest innovation is the robots and especially the star of this event which is a small robot from Boston Dynamics. It is a well-known company that develops innovative robots and is often associated with Skynet in the film Terminator. Let me reassure you right away, they have no plans yet to destroy humanity and they presented us with one of the first public appearances of this little robot dog that can be programmed to do different tasks like inspecting construction sites, bringing you a glass of water or transporting small goods. For me it’s still a robot that’s a bit of a gadget but what’s interesting is the second robot that was announced during this evening.
Boston Dynamics has high ambitions in logistics with this robot that allows you load/unload/move cartons. If you’ve worked in logistics, you know that this is a very classic operation, repeated millions of times by people, and it also causes major back problems. I think it’s a great opportunity for logistics to make these jobs more enjoyable with this kind of support. This first robot is planned in two or three years. I would be curious to know if it is easily programmable and flexible because all warehouses have very different processes. It will be interesting to see how it adapts.
These are the 4 innovations that will really impact our supply chain and logistics. What we must remember from these cases of innovation is that each time we will associate technology with the automation of tasks and simplification, which for some will be a real threat of job loss. For others, it will be a great opportunity. Now it’s up to you to ask the question: which side do you want to be on?
Of course, if you want to have opportunities in these areas, you will need to continue to develop capabilities and experience to be able to continue to transform supply chains and make them more and more efficient and self-sustainable. I really aim to help you develop your skills, improve your performance and also accelerate your careers in supply chain and logistics. You can find more information to accelerate your career here.