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Supply Chain Technology Adoption: Opportunities and Obstacles

Supply Chain Management, State of Smart Manufacturing
May 4, 2023

"Back to normal."

After the countless disruptions that have defined the last several years, that’s not a phrase used by manufacturers when talking about where supply chains are headed.

However, not getting back to normal offers new opportunities for success. Finding better ways to minimize upheaval and maximize relationships also means gaining stability, agility, and predictability when it comes to supply chain management and planning.

How to make it happen? According to the 8th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report, manufacturers believe that using better data from updated technology is the key to alleviating external pressures and easing internal risks. When asked about obstacles to success, supply chain was on our respondents’ minds.

Overcoming Obstacles with Technology

Before a challenge can be alleviated, it has to be understood. Manufacturers are reporting obstacles that fall into two clear categories:

External: Manufacturers tell us that the two biggest obstacles they face from external sources are inflation, followed by supply chain distribution. When it comes to external risks like inflation, supply chain, and workforce shortages, the top-ranking mitigation tactic is adopting new technology (44%).

Internal: The top two ways respondents are addressing internal risk are to adopt new technology aimed at minimizing disruption from workforce or supply issues (53%) and to shift their operations to the cloud for purposes including increased cybersecurity protection and business continuity (50%).

Out of the 1,350+ manufacturers from around the globe surveyed for the 2023 State of Smart Manufacturing Report, the vast majority see supply chain planning as a tool they need. The report shows 46% have already adopted supply chain planning software, but 79% of all respondents still lack an end-to-end solution. Clearly, there’s still an important need to fill.

Supply chain software is a smart manufacturing tool that many companies acknowledge would be greatly beneficial to implement, yet it’s one they have yet to acquire. In fact, this year’s report revealed that 50% of participants are either not using a supply chain planning process or are still using manual tools (i.e. spreadsheets) or homegrown solutions.

A Comprehensive Solution

To be most effective, adopting supply chain technology should come in the form of an end-to-end solution designed to incorporate sales and operations planning while also increasing visibility and control. Having this complete picture works to keep costs down in many ways, including by managing redundancy. In contrast, piecemeal solutions often don't contain enough inputs to accurately plan and forecast.

A real-time data deficit takes a toll. The lack of visibility faced by those without end-to-end digital supply chain solutions is problematic, especially in the face of growing pressure from regulatory bodies and audit demands from large customers that now require tracking and traceability transparency.

This year’s survey results show a desire to adopt supply chain solutions and that manufacturers recognize the benefits. But for many respondents, the range of available systems and platforms leads to “technology paralysis” — an inability to decide between solutions.

An organization which finds itself held back from investing in technology due to this type of decision paralysis is likely to see an impact on its ability to compete. Concern around this area is growing. The 2023 State of Smart Manufacturing Report found a 65% year-over-year increase in the number of participants reporting that their organization lacks the technology to outpace the competition over the next twelve months.

With that in mind, 2023 is the year to find and implement the smart manufacturing solutions — for supply chain and beyond — that will keep your company competitive. As you look to progress your smart manufacturing journey, get informed with more stats, tips, and insights below.

Click here to download the 8th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report and don’t miss the 10 Steps to Technology Adoption Checklist on page 33.

About the Author

Gerry Abbey Product Marketing Manager, Plex Systems