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4 Digital Supply Chain Trends to Watch in 2022

Dec 16, 2021 9:00:00 AM

When it comes to transportation and logistics, digital solutions are driving the industry forward. We’ve previously discussed the advantages of a digitally enabled supply chain, including increased opportunities for automation, more cohesive systems, and the ability to leverage data for decision-making.

As the global supply chain continues to adapt to challenges like the pandemic, Brexit, and the tech skills shortage, digitization will be even more important in 2022. Here are four trends to watch: 

1. Adoption of blockchain technology

Blockchain acts as a decentralized, tamper-resistant digital ledger to store data and verify transactions. While the technology isn’t exactly new, it's undoubtedly gaining more traction in transportation and logistics due to its accuracy and security.

In 2020, 60% of supply chain professionals said the biggest obstacle to blockchain adoption was the lack of adoption by other companies. But now, 81 of the Top 100 Public Companies are using blockchain technology — and as more companies jump on the bandwagon, it will become more accessible and easier to implement. For that reason, we expect to see blockchain adoption increase in 2022.

2. More applications for 5G networks

5G has significant advantages over 4G — it’s about eight times faster and has approximately five times the bandwidth. This increase in speed and bandwidth is great news for the transportation and supply chain management industries.

Here are just a few potential benefits of 5G:

  • More opportunities for automation like drone delivery, warehouse robotics, and autonomous vehicles
  • Ability to provide more detailed real-time tracking updates
  • Safer cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications
  • Real-time route planning based on traffic or weather conditions

Despite temporary delays due to FAA safety concerns, the 5G rollout is on track to continue throughout 2022, and coverage in Tier-1 cities is predicted to reach 60% in 2024. As more transportation and logistics companies access 5G networks, we expect to see even more industry applications emerge.

3. Increased utilization of artificial intelligence

We’ve covered artificial intelligence (AI) more extensively in a previous post, but here’s a brief refresher: 

AI mimics human intelligence and is used for various tasks in logistics and supply chain management, including risk management, route optimization, and freight bill processing. AI’s ability to quickly analyze enormous amounts of data makes it a valuable tool for boosting efficiency.

However, over the past few years, AI has become more than just an exciting opportunity to streamline operations — it’s now a competitive requirement across industries. 52% of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans because of the pandemic, and 86% of organizations say they prioritize AI and machine learning over other IT initiatives.

We expect this acceleration to continue into 2022 and beyond. Keep an eye out for new and emerging applications for AI and machine learning, with an emphasis on how to improve the customer experience.

4. Better technology for truck drivers

Truck drivers have historically been somewhat left behind when it comes to access to high-tech tools. Luckily, that’s changing. Freight transportation companies increasingly realize that outdated processes are holding them back and that digital solutions for logistics aren’t end-to-end unless truck drivers are part of the process.

Traditionally, bills of lading (BOLs) are scanned in the terminal, a slow process that delays access to the data. To address this shortcoming, many carriers are beginning to ask drivers to capture BOL images from the road. 

However, most in-use BOL capture applications require drivers to both capture an image and manually key the relevant data. This process doesn’t just slow drivers down — it also results in poor-quality BOL images, abundant data entry errors, and longer turnaround times. 

Mobile applications with intelligent image capture can help solve this problem by enabling drivers to easily take clear images of BOLs. Some intelligent image capture technology even automatically enhances and crops paperwork, ensuring that it’s readable for both humans and AI systems.

Mobile technology can also help reduce drive time and fuel costs with AI-powered route optimization, provide automated vehicle check reminders, and enable documented driver-terminal communication.

Conclusion

In our tech-powered world, it’s no surprise that companies are looking for new opportunities to digitize their operations. Over the past few years, the pandemic and other supply chain disruptions have demonstrated the need for more efficient processes, leading to an accelerated pace of innovation that will continue for the foreseeable future.

In 2022, we expect to see increased adoption of digital supply chain management technology, including blockchain, 5G, AI, and end-to-end platforms that bring truck drivers into the high-tech fold. Each of these technologies will enable transportation and logistics companies to optimize their operations and move forward into an age of better, faster, and more efficient supply chains.

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