The Friday Report: August 24th, 2018

Quick wrap up of a few hot topic newsworthy stories in the supply chain logistics industry

Digital Supply Chain Planning

We are now experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0.  As industries convert to digital data, operational processes can now be accelerated.  Slower, manual supply chain planning processes can be replaced by streamlined, seamless flows of data to various systems and artificial intelligence tools.  This replaces repetitive tasks which are typically considered a waste of human effort.

With the popularity of e-commerce sales, supply chain planning has become more complicated and cumbersome.  Instead of simply moving pallets filled with many items, now supply chain logistics operations are required to move a greater volume of individual items, each to different geographic locations to reach consumers.  The level of complexity has increased exponentially.  Because of consumer demand, product lifecycles have decreased.

To meet the needs for a superior customer experience, retailers have imposed severe financial penalties for non-compliance with their service and delivery requirements.

The expense of automation, Internet access and computing power has all dropped, making these tools more affordable, capable and easier to implement.  Consider traditional supply chain planning methods, processes and tools.  They simply were not designed for the transaction volume and speed encountered today. Digitalizing supply chain planning can potentially provide the rewards of levels of speed, responsiveness and agility never previously encountered.  Having this capability can potentially result in benefits such as reduced inventory levels, freeing up cash flow, increased forecast accuracy and reduced processing time.

Federal Legislation Aims to Drive Millennial Truck Drivers to Long Haul Safely

The shortage of long haul truck drivers has resulted in some creative solutions, including altering the age range of qualified truck drivers.  Three Republican Senators have introduced the DRIVE-Safe Act to establish an apprenticeship training program to help ensure that younger truck drivers are trained beyond the current standards.

Many states allow 18 year old truck drivers to operate trucks which haul freight from state-to-state.  Young truck drivers would be required to complete a minimum of 400 hours of on-duty time as well as 240 hours of driving time with an experienced truck driver.  Every truck involved in the apprenticeship program would be required to be equipped with specific safety technologies.  This would include a video system, active braking and a device which governs speed set at a maximum of 65 miles per hour. Developed to reinforce safe driving and help alleviate the shortage of long haul truck drivers, the legislation would spearhead an effort to provide the needed skills to the next generation of truck drivers and help remediate the shortage plaguing today’s supply chain industry.

Artificial Intelligence Makes Supply Chain Human Workers Essential

While it is true that artificial intelligence will replace some of the work humans currently handle, humans will remain essential to accomplish supply chain operational processes.  As in other industries, humans will work alongside AI solutions, providing additional value.


Human trainers help artificial intelligence systems learn how to perform.  This may include helping with natural language processing systems and aiding language translators make fewer mistakes.  Other potential areas including teaching AI algorithms how to mimic human behaviors.


Human workers interpret the results of algorithms.  This in turn helps to improve the transparency and accountability for artificial decision making and processes


Human workers help ensure that intelligent systems remain true to the original goals.  Sustainers make sure that ethical lines are not crossed and that bias is not reinforced.

Today, companies are beginning to use technologies in combination, such as artificial intelligence with advanced analytics to enable supply chain planners to reduce time on reactive problem solving.   This enables supply chain planners to focus more intently on the future planning and strategic decisions.  Moving from traditional supply chain models to more flexible, reactive versions is more complex, requiring advanced analytical skills and intervention of technology.

Supply chain companies are beginning to realize that human workforces must evolve and become adept at working alongside digital technologies as well as with sophisticated machines and systems.  Getting human workers to accept this transition to the new skills that will be needed will be challenging but necessary.  Being prepared to attract the workforce needed for the future is essential and incorporating mobility, technology and collaboration tools will be a necessity.

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