The Human Hurdle: Improve Autonomy, Remove Delay, and Speed Will Follow

Article by Tom Serres

The human hand has constructed supply chains throughout the span of their evolution and managed them at every step of the way. However, technology has advanced to the point where supply chains are prepared for autonomy, utilizing a potent combination of blockchain, AI, IoT, and other assorted innovations to learn, grow, and adapt relative to countless variables. The largest hurdles still separating hungry consumer demand and tomorrow’s fast, reliable, and prescient cognitive supply chains are humanity’s ability to build sufficient machine trust and our learning to stay out of technology’s way.

Humans Are Inefficient

Supply chains have historically been built upon human trust and cooperation. As a result, they have often been susceptible to information silos, communication gaps, and other assorted inefficiencies. And this has only become truer over the past two decades. Modern supply chains are ill-equipped to handle ever-increasing demand precipitated by e-commerce and mobile technology, where virtually the entire retail environment sits in the palm of a consumer’s hand.

Any latencies in today’s supply chains, where there is so little room for error, create a cascading effect that leaves customer bases unsatisfied with service, brands exposed to negative feedback, and the many components comprising supply chains scrambling to recover. This wide-sweeping impact is the inevitable conclusion of a reliance on human actors incapable of adequately handling the many issues within hypercomplex supply chains that must be agile and smart, absorbing and contorting around the many variables constantly thrown their way.

Building a Future of Machine Trust

To avoid latencies that wreak havoc on all levels of commerce, machine trust must be fostered and invested in. Put another way, human beings need to develop the ability to equip supply chains with cognitive tools that evolve along with the marketplace and, just as importantly, have the strength and foresight to then get out of the way.

A properly equipped, cognitive supply chain is autonomous and responsive.. From the manufacturing lines to distribution centers, transaction platforms to communication channels, information is freely shared between the many necessary components, all functioning within a decentralized framework that is free of human interference as well as unnecessary intermediaries. Blockchain enables the secure exchange of money and data without banks or redundant clearinghouses. Likewise, AI absorbs information regarding everything from weather patterns to consumer behavior to construct algorithmic models that anticipate distribution issues and expected demand, minimizing the risk of shortages and disruptions.

The technology needed to drive such cognitive networks is, in many instances, already being implemented to improve efficiency in specific areas of supply chains. While adopting one piece of the solution set is still beneficial – like a manufacturer that automates production with robotic technology but doesn’t use IoT to monitor machine fatigue – it is a mere fraction of what a comprehensive solution set affords both the supply and demand sides of the economy.

Supply chains are ready to head out into the world on their own, no longer needing to be coddled along the way. If human beings can supply them with the autonomy required to evolve, cognitive supply chains offer a host of improvements to contemporary commercial processes. To learn even more, check out our white paper.