By 2021, one in 10 warehouse workers in established economies will be replaced by autonomous mobile robots.” Gartner Report 2017


While there is some shock value to the above statement, reality takes it down a few notches. The report goes on to say in less bold type that: “By 2021, three out of five factory-level AI initiatives in large global companies will stall due to inadequate skill sets.” So, as with most new technology hype, why would companies invest in what promises to be the future of Supply Chain?

Future of Supply Chain

I can see it now: a team of highly paid Robotic technicians huddled around a frozen robot while other workers are called to unload and stock inventory shelves. Big hourly cost.

So, how do we know when to actually adopt and invest new AI-related technology?

Do we listen to the sales pitches of AI vendors as they point out the wonderful data and reliability of the new AI devise or do we make sure vendors can assure of adequate and cost-effective technical support?

Indeed, we know where the robots and smart devices will come from but what about the supporting technical capacity to service onsite problems. We know those will happen and most folks avoid early adoption for that reason. But, each crypto device will be a new tool for most and vendors should be aware of this possible objection to pulling the trigger on making an investment in new technology no matter how sexy it may seem.

Another important component in Supply Chain Management of the Industry 4.0 “revolution” will be Blockchain technology for documentation.

According to a recent article in Forbes, “It’s incredibly difficult for customers or buyers to truly know the value of products because there is a significant lack of transparency in our current system. In a similar way, it’s extremely difficult to investigate supply chains when there is suspicion of illegal or unethical practices.” Blockchain promises to provide a secure method to provide tamper-proof documentation through the use of a distributed, digital ledger that is totally encrypted and transported over the internet at the speed of light. Ultimately, blockchain can increase the efficiency and transparency of supply chains and positively impact everything from warehousing to delivery to payment. Chain of custody is essential for many things, and blockchain has the chain of control built in.


Poor data quality entered into the chain can result in inaccurate data assumptions in subsequent chains and create problems with data analysis.

Another key problem with today’s level, or lack thereof, of using blockchain in supply chain and logistics lies in virtually zero off-the-shelf (OTS) systems. Blockchain technology is still “new,” so few supply chain management software vendors have had the time to develop OTS solutions for use. According to DHL Logistics, another problem still exists; will the universe of shippers embrace blockchain wholeheartedly? In other words, technology’s primary challenge is creating a culture of acceptance, organization, and standardization for its use.

Industry 4.0 is just over the horizon and awaits a growing number of early adopters. However, when the new abilities of I-4.0 hit a critical mass of acceptance, the real revolution will kick in with a vengeance.

So the question is: When should your company consider putting its toe into the coming revolution?

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