Supply chain management is an entire field in itself and primarily is about managing the entire process comprising the flow of products from the manufacturing unit to the inventory or warehouse, and then to the distributor/retailer, and ultimately to the end user. It also involves coordination and communication with the customer, payments, handling customer feedback, and everything that falls in between. So, the supply chain process involves much more than what is visible from the outer edge. It involves a gamut of functions other than just handling the logistics.
People who are a part of the supply chain process are required to keep track of the demand and supply balance, proper levels of inventory, avoiding damages to stored products, removing any bottlenecks, controlling expenses, and increasing efficiency. Ideally, these people should be a part of product manufacturing right from the time raw materials are procured to manufacture a product, the design phase, and the actual manufacturing process as well. They should be thorough with the technical aspects.
So, if we consider the value chain of the supply chain process, it would include everyone from the production line, warehouse staff, vendors, and raw material suppliers to transporters, financial transactions service providers, and end users.
The role of automation and technology in supply chain has changed the way it functions although the core aspects remain the same. This includes usage of gadgets for tracking locations, implementing robots in warehouses and much more. More automation is expected over the next couple of years and this could include implementing robots in certain areas. This would benefit organizations in a huge way; the use of technology would certainly shorten the supply chain cycles and increase efficiency.
Industry 4.0, which is also known as the fourth industrial revolution, would positively impact the supply chain process and the underlying opportunities. Industry 4.0 encompasses a range of systems and technologies, both physical and virtual, such as automation technologies, cloud computing, AI, IoT, machine-to-machine communication, human-to-machine communication, and more. All these technologies are bound to change the manufacturing sector at large.
With this, although machines would be intelligent enough to function on their own and make decisions, the supply chain process would still perhaps require the humanitarian aspects such as coordination and transparency among all the stakeholders in the process, be it suppliers, manufacturers, or transporters. The other option for manufacturers would perhaps be slightly tough and expensive— investing in all the functions from manufacturing to delivery of the product. So, in this case a manufacturer manufacturing a product would assemble it, provide services, and dispatch it. This may not be feasible for most players and they would require trusted partners, vendors, suppliers, and more.
The most important factors here are digitization, implementing the right systems depending on the organizational requirements, and that the employees upgrade themselves, are technologically sound, and aware of the systems they’ll have to function with.
Reportedly, there is an increasing demand for warehouse automation systems in India, most of it perhaps from large online retail chains apart from manufacturers in the hard core engineering sector. All this would surely push the market for warehouse automation further over the next two years. Also, in general, there is likely to be an increasing demand for OEMs of equipment automation. It is estimated that there will be an increasing demand for automation solutions for data capturing, parcel packaging, labelling and routing, billing & payments, and the related documentation.
As far as the supply chain scene in India is concerned, it is expected to change massively not just in terms of technology but also considering the external factors which influence this process. India already has embarked on a path to progress and there are many government initiatives and their executions which facilitate the same. These include improved infrastructure, better multimodal transport connectivity, implementation of technology in spheres connected to supply chain, increased demand for various products owing to an improved economy, more number of businesses connected across locations and nations, a huge urban population, and more.