Technologies for Digital Supply Chains and QA Considerations

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The logistics, manufacturing, supply chain, and transportation industries are going through a time of unprecedented transformation.

(1) Introduction

The future of these industries is paved with both innovation and technology. It was not long ago that ideas like 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), drone delivery, and augmented reality were but notions of science fiction. Today, merchants and service providers within these industries are cautiously adopting these technologies to provide faster, cheaper, more reliable, and sustainable business practices. Now, organizational supply chains can leverage these technologies to better understand customer value chains and optimize both their inbound and outbound logistics.

(2) Understanding Customer Buying Process

The non-linear journey of customer buying process

Consumers have moved from single channel to multi-channel, and from cross-channel to omni-channel transactions. In short, providers and marketers enable the business transition from single to omni-channel, which in turn enables companies to provide consumers with cross-channel structures, flexible customer journeys, and single brand reinforcement.

The customer of the digital age follows a non-linear journey and may navigate multiple store forms—physical out-of-store, digital out-of-store completed at home or on the go, digital in-store on a personal or retailer device, and physical in-store—for a single transaction.

Take, for example, when a customer looks at a product in a physical catalog or a printed ad, scans the QR code to get further details on product, checks online social media feedback about the product on the go and goes to physical store. There, the customer talks to a purchase consultant who then checks demos of the product, and uses web analytics data to recommend the best options or accessories on the market.

An in-store assistant checks the availability of the recommended accessories that may not be available in-store at other stores. The customer then uses own tablet device, code scanner, and payment wallet to place the order and perhaps use coupons.  Finally, the item is picked up the same day from another store and delivered to the customer’s door. Unfortunately, one of the accessories does not perform as intended and is returned to the store through store’s logistics service provider.  Following this experience, the customer provides feedback on a public customer service portal.  To top if off, the customer receives loyalty points for the business conducted.  With just a single transaction, the customer successfully navigates and manipulates multiple channels in pursuit of a sale.

(3) Industry Trends in Supply Chain Management

The business and technology trends that impact supply chains include the following:

Business Trends

1.      A blurring of boundaries between industries: telecom, financial services, and retail

2.      Fluid multichannel shopping experiences

3.      Customer collaboration as a core competence in digital business

4.      The physical store as a multi-channel hub of digital business

5.      The proliferation of bring-your-own device, mobile, and crowd-sourcing-based digital workplaces of the future

6.      Multi-channel fulfillment for competitive differentiation

7.      A focus on customer-facing processes for business transformation

8.      A growing use of predictive customer analytics and intelligence

Technology Trends

1.      Combining digitalization with the Internet of Things

2.      Prioritizing the role of multi-channel, master data management (MDM) and multi-channel content management (MCM) in digitalization and customer experience

3.      Deploying distributed order management to execute retailer multi-channel fulfillment strategies

4.      Introducing the use of smart machines like robots and drones to improve productivity

5.      Highlighting in-store technology as a way to enhance the digital store.

6.      Prioritizing data security to protect the brand

7.      Adopting desktop 3D printing services

(4) New Technologies in Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management has undergone a significant change as a result of varying customer demands. New segments and new services are evolving on the daily, making supply chains increasingly complicated. Some of the new technologies that are making supply chain more efficient and more optimized are outlined below:

  • FinTech businesses: Supply chain financing is the biggest achievement of FinTech technologies in the supply chain sector. FinTech, or financial technologies, is the marriage of both technology and financial services. Thanks to digitization, a new breed of companies promising to provide customers with online financial services has emerged. This innovation has pushed companies to optimize their working capital and utilize their resources and assets in a better way.
  • Analytics and big data: Data abounds from every possible source. But big answers are required from big data. This is where analytics come into picture. Various analytical models give valuable suggestions to vendors and manufacturers about customer buying patterns. This helps to streamline the supply chain and avoid supply chain conflicts.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT has changed the way one ships materials from the factory to a client. A set of sensors used in tandem with specific software, track shipments and their conditions at any point in time. This works to remedy problems like time of delivery, climate change, supply and demand, and others.
  • Smart machines: To err is human, but not machine. Smart machines can complete a particular job for us more efficiently than a human ever could. This will render supply chains more agile and responsive while also optimizing raw material costs.
  • Cloud computing:  Second-screen concepts are increasingly coming in play.  New positions like “supply chain officers” are cropping up, indicating the need for people who can track shipments from various devices or second screens and react quickly in the face of complications.
  • 3D printing: The use of different kinds of materials in 3D printing is changing the supply chain industry. Also called additive manufacturing (printing in layers), it combats situations like demand-supply mismatch.
  • Blockchain: FinTech disrupts the financial industry and Blockchain disrupts the FinTechs. Blockchain is a distributed database that holds records of digital data or events and renders them tamper resistant. Blockchain is capable of tracking all types of transactions. Imagine a product that changes hands multiple times until it reaches its end customer. If we are able to track all the events in the value chain, then potential roadblocks such as cost or delays can be checked.

(5) Focus of QA in Supply Chain

The emergence of new technologies and platforms has significantly impacted both customer centricity and the need for heightened customer experiences. In order to be efficient while achieving customer satisfaction, enterprises are revamping, re-engineering, automating, and adapting their business processes. The overall aim is to improve and optimize an organization’s business processes through automation, application development, integration, and maintenance.

Let’s take a look at some of the supply chain characteristic and testing techniques that can benefit an enterprise.

1.      Dynamic business processes: more adaptive business processes are replacing older, standard processes. New processes focus on customer centricity, touching on acquisition, retention, customer satisfaction, and turn-around time. Agile business processes are being designed so that process changes and course corrections can be handled both quickly and in line with market changes.

2.      Shorter lead time for new product development and features: the lead time for new products, features, and enhancements decreases in response to market changes, which in turn makes it challenging for testing to keep pace and maintain quality.

3.      Consistency, repeatability, and reusability of processes: the need for reusable process components for minimal re-work ultimately leads to easier and faster turnarounds.

4.      Customer experience and customer-centric usability: personalized customer experiences through user interface optimization lead to better customer retention and satisfaction. Testing around usability, accessibility, and performance will help enable this key aspect of digital transformation.

5.      Compliance and security of business processes: securing business processes and making processes compliant to industry regulations are also key paradigms of digital transformation.

(6) Conclusion

In summary, the use of modern technologies such as Fintech, IoT, Blockchain, cloud computing, 3D printing, smart machines, analytics, and big data is set to make supply chains more optimal and efficient. Just as devices and customer-facing mobile applications have changed the face of the buying process, the smooth adoption of these technologies across various touch points in the supply chain holds the potential to enhance overall procurement efficiencies.


Main Author: Renu Rajani, Vice president, Capgemini technology I P Ltd,

Contributing Author: Pulkit Mathur, Solutionign Consultant, Capgemini technology I P Ltd,

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