The future discussions at the Spring 2019 conference of the Health and Personal Care Logistics Council were forecast during initial keynote presentation from Ram Krishnan, CMO of Aera Technologies who outlined the challenges and opportunities of the ‘smart’ supply chain.
The smart supply chain involves technologies that collect, analyze and predict outcomes that require less human involvement compared with previous systems.
Krishnan provided executives from pharmaceutical manufacturers and service providers a peek into the future when he asked his smartphone about production forecasts for the coming quarter and the phone responded with the answer. The information exchange was made possible by the technology of Aera based on data entered into their system about a mock company. The phone also provided a warning about a stock shortage in a specific geographic area and recommended a solution to pre-empt the situation.
More data fed into more sophisticated systems capable of handling larger quantities of information are transforming corporate decision-making. The automation of the data-analysis function is freeing people to increase their work efficiency.
Although job descriptions must adapt to technological advances, the human element continues to be a vital component to assure information accuracy, according to Krishnan.
A common theme throughout many presentations was the fact that human interaction with computers and machines is changing the nature of work.
At a lively panel discussion called “Forecasting Transportation Capacity and Budget Spend,” two trucking industry experts explained the problem of ’empty miles’ and their solutions to add efficiency to matching freight with over-the-road transportation. Ken Evans of Konexial got the attention of everyone in the room when he stated that trucks currently rack up over 60 billion miles annually of drive-time without hauling any loads.
To reduce the problem of empty miles, companies including Konexial and J.B. Hunt have developed virtual marketplaces like J.B. Hunt 360 where companies with freight to haul match with trucking companies near the pick-up location to maximize efficiency at both ends of the transaction.
By the close of the Spring conference, the benefits from smart technologies targeting specific logistics solutions became clear. Increasing and more complex regulatory requirements from multiple authorities, labor shortages and related wage pressures, stiffer competition and evolving distribution models are prompting companies to explore advances in technology to ease supply chain uncertainty.