Daniel Marquez, National Leader of Products Technology Strategy, Accenture, examines how the Fifth Industrial Revolution will change the supply chain industry.
At the recent Toronto Air Cargo Forum, one panel was posed the question “What will the 5th industrial revolution look like in our industry?”. The discussion was a lively one, focused on rapidly evolving technology and the way these seemingly futuristic solutions are already finding their way into our companies today. However, as a participant on that panel, I think the essence of the question may have been lost, leaving the full scope of what this revolution will mean for the industry undefined.
So here’s my perspective.
The logistics industry has always been dominated by the ability to make connections. The companies that can build networks, blend modes, and get there first have usually come out ahead. More recently, these connections have increasingly come to include human ones as well, with a prominent focus on the experience of customers, partners, and employees driving corporate performance.
Will the connections companies have established lose their significance as technology transforms the industry? The answer is both no and yes. No, the physical networks and capabilities that organizations have established will not stop being the backbone of their continued day to day performance. No, the relationships they have established with their customers, partners, and employees will not fade from view. But yes, the industry will change, and in a big way. In the not-too-distant future, the connections that will matter most will be those that blur the boundaries between the physical and digital world.
What is Physical/Digital Blur?
It all starts with data…vast oceans of data. Much of it is sitting in cold storage on your servers already or, more likely, waiting to be mined through the proliferation of IOT devices; it is the raw material that will power the future. Highly valuable and ready to be consumed by machine learning and AI engines, this data allows for a level of real time insight into the state of our physical systems never before seen in the industry. This insight, used to drive judgement and perform real-world actions, will dramatically alter the way most core processes function. Whether it be a human operating on intelligent predictions or machines executing autonomously, the future of logistics will be dominated by the ability to rapidly refine and optimize the use of our physical assets in response to a complex and constantly evolving environment. In turn, these processes will generate yet more data, empowering a cycle of learning and adaptation far faster than ever before.
Laying the Groundwork
Before too long, machines will automate much more than the repetitive and manual tasks of today. Complex end-to-end processes will be executed entirely without human intervention. Machines will work and respond in real-time to input data, make decisions, and act immediately on those decisions, learning as they go to improve future results.
However, the role of the human at the heart of the network has never been more important. Amid all this change, it will be up to people to build and operate systems that function not only effectively, but ethically. And it will be people that ensure the human connections are sustained as the digital ones are developed. This will be the key to operating in the 5th industrial revolution: companies who can continue to excel in the management of physical assets and networks while harnessing the power of data will survive. Those who can do both without losing sight of the human at the heart of it all will thrive.
*The views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and are not representative of Accenture’s opinion on this topic*