Chris Fenton MD, Industrial and transport, Wincanton

As we enter the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, we are beginning to reap the benefits of digital technologies in the supply chain, from cloud-based transport management systems and artificial intelligence through to 3D printing and fleet telematics. Digitisation of the supply chain – whether in part or using a full suite of technologies – is a necessary but challenging process. And it’s one that presents opportunities, if properly embraced.

Wincanton believes the benefits of these new technologies will only be fully realised if they are converged, rather than operating in isolation.

The ideal level of visibility across the supply chain covers everything. It’s a full view of your suppliers’ supply chain, your customers’ and, of course, your own.

With the certainty of this level of understanding, businesses will be able to plan effectively and mitigate risks within

and beyond their control.

The problem is that few businesses boast this reach right now. The introduction of blockchain technology presents an opportunity to go beyond traditional methods to better ensure provenance of raw materials and goods.

Better analysis of data will support faster and more accurate decisionmaking.

A top-down view of the data in a business can help break down silos of information. This, in turn, could allow for better integration and co-operation with customers and partners, and more effective use of human resources to manage customer, supplier and partner relationships. People remain at the heart of logistics.

From drivers and warehouse operatives through to operational experts, logistics won’t deliver if people aren’t at the centre of the process. So getting the most from people is where future success will be defined, with businesses that successfully manage interactions between humans and automation the ones that will benefit.

Fundamentally, leadership has not changed, but the rapid development and deployment of digital technologies means that the expectations for leaders are shifting and evolving.

Technology is moving forward faster than anybody would have thought just a few years ago, and success will hinge on the ability to thrive on uncertainty.

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