Mark Morley, Senior Director, Product Marketing at OpenText, provides his supply chain trend forecast for the year ahead.
1. Embracing conversational AI across tomorrow’s supply chains: Companies have been embarking on a journey of digitizing their supply chains for many years. In fact, that journey started in the 1960s as large companies around the world started to embrace EDI communication and document standards. It is surprising today how many companies have not completely digitized their supply chain operations, and as a result, they are not able to realize the significant benefits and ROI that digitizing the supply chain can bring. In 2024, we will see more companies looking to obtain greater value and insights from the data being exchanged across their business ecosystem. As a technology, ‘Big Data’ has been around since 2010, but in 2024, we will see explosive growth in the use of Generative AI solutions and especially Conversational AI solutions in the supply chain sector. The ability to have a ‘conversation with a business network’ that is connected to all your business systems and your external trading partner community will be of tremendous value to companies of all sizes, offering accelerating supplier onboarding to optimizing logistics flows, from improving inventory management to accelerating payments between parties. Conversational AI is set to change how users interact with their business networks.
2. Leveraging a business network for ESG and SCOPE 3 reporting: Business networks connect global supply chains across many different sectors, they are pervasive and reach into almost any business system and out to any trading partner or information source. Companies using business networks have been able to obtain an indirect benefit for many years, digitizing and automating paper-based processes helps to save paper and of course billions of trees around the world. Developing more sustainable supply chains has been the goal of all supply chain and procurement leaders around the world. With the introduction of new ESG mandates worldwide, companies are being forced to make significant changes to their supply chain operations. Business networks allow companies to not only exchange information digitally, but they can also derive powerful insights to help optimize up and downstream processes and comply with regional compliance mandates. From adhering to the Dodd Frank Conflict Minerals law in the US to ensuring that all companies in Germany embrace the ‘Act on Due Diligence in Supply Chains’, ethical and sustainable sourcing will become a required business practice moving forwards. In 2024, we expect more companies to draft similar regulations, which are expected to include the newer SCOPE 3 regulations. Companies will become responsible for monitoring the carbon emissions produced at every tier of their supply chain and transporting goods across each tier. Business networks will become central to the exchange of ESG and SCOPE 3 information, and we will likely see new EDI transactions emerge or existing transactions updated to include information about ESG and SCOPE 3 reporting.
3. How intelligent command centres provide supply chain leaders with actionable insights: As global supply chains strive to mitigate the risk and impact of disruptive events; visibility is key to making timely and accurate decisions. However, simply having access to relevant information is not enough, but users will need to identify the right information to focus on at any given time based on their role and responsibilities. Supplier risk indicators, performance benchmarks, extreme weather phenomena, labour disputes, and many other pieces of information are all potentially relevant to supply chains operations, but only meaningful if you can identify how they will impact your business and what steps can be taken to mitigate these impacts. To move from simply having information to leveraging it to drive meaningful action, organizations will need enabling technology. In 2024, we are likely to see the traditional supply chain control towers increasingly being replaced or complemented by intelligent command centre capabilities that go beyond KPI tracking by allowing users to access more insights and get guidance on where they need to focus. This will require bringing together various technical capabilities from role-based access and diverse data integration to specialized user interfaces and AI-assisted analytics features. As with most complex IT solutions, one size will not fit all, and flexibility and adaptability will be crucial for success.
4. Rebalancing B2B resources to meet the needs of tomorrow’s integration activities: With the global business landscape undergoing major changes, companies need to be able to adapt quickly to stay competitive. Technology plays a key role in this. Pressures around digital transformation are impacting businesses of all sizes, and despite the economic headwinds faced by most companies, the level of investment in digital technologies remains high. While modernization and new technology adoption create many opportunities, they also increase complexity and create a need for more integration between different systems and applications—both internally and across the extended business ecosystem. As we move into 2024 and beyond, companies need to adjust their IT resources to match the changes in requirements. This includes rebalancing their B2B integration resources to meet the demand around increased connectivity and process automation with external business partners. Yet, due to the diverse nature of B2B connectivity, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire and retain staff with the right skills and expertise to manage complex integration projects. As many seasoned professionals around some of the core technologies still actively used today are retiring from the workforce, companies need to identify a continuity plan for B2B integration. This will drive many organizations to partner more closely with managed service providers that can offer the range of skills needed on an on-demand basis to ensure both availability and optimal utilization of the required resources.
5. Digital Product Passports will simplify the journey towards the Circular Economy: Digitizing a product is not a novel concept as the digital twin has gained traction in product design, testing and usage. But adding in the identity-centric models, such as a digital passport adds new use cases and also some new challenges. 2024 will see a renewed interest in digital twins leveraging the digital passport to drive sustainability projects, especially those mandated by government regulations. The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation in the European Union is a good example of these regulations. The proposal for a new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), is the cornerstone of the Commission’s approach to more environmentally sustainable and circular products. One of the key challenges is governing who should have access to the digital passport data, such as location or the personal data of the user of the product. This could be especially problematic in highly regulated industries such as healthcare where patient data must be protected but still be utilized by the authorized groups. The digital passport needs a strong governance and authentication system for its true value to be realized. If implemented with a strong security posture it can be a key part of a product’s digital transformation that gives insight into the initial use and throughout the product’s lifecycle. Digital passports will give manufacturers of any size, valuable data that can be used to improve product design as well as enhance the customer experience.