Erik Olson, North American supply chain lead with Accenture, explains how the cloud has made possible a slew of technological innovations for the supply chain, including analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain.
“Cloud is actually the reason how all of those different pieces and technologies get knitted together,” says Olson. It serves as the base for applications that involve huge amounts of supply-chain data, generated both internally and externally. The result is real-time access to information, without data latency.
In its early days, cloud technology encountered some hesitancy among companies worried about losing control of their applications, possible system interruptions, and security. Those questions are still being asked today, Olson says, but executives have become far more comfortable with the cloud. Accenture’s recent research found that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 15% to 20% of workflows were being managed in the cloud. Now, 93% of surveyed executives believe that more than half of their supply-chain workflows will be in the cloud within the next three years.
The pandemic has accelerated adoption of the cloud as well as the newer technologies that rely on it, Olson says. The inflection point of acceptance actually began about two years ago, but “we’re well beyond that now,” he adds. “We see a grand acceleration toward all things digital, enabled by the cloud.” The technology allows for the reception of “digital twins” of supply chains, giving companies the ability to predict the impact of a variety of potential events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Motivated by the desire to cope with future disruptions, companies are pouring investments into AI, blockchain and other new technologies for supply-chain management. It has become a board-level issue. “This is the golden era right now for supply chain professionals,” Olson says.
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