How 9 Technologies Will Drive Global Supply Chain Disruption

Cloud corporations, supertrends, and potentially procurement without lawyers and auditors. Are you keeping up with technologies driving global disruption?


Last week, Procurious attended the ProcureCon Europe conference in Berlin. You can read about our experiences, keynote highlights, and more on our Blog.

One keynote caught our attention enough that we felt it needed delved into in more detail. Professor Leslie Wilcocks, Professor of Technology Work and Globalisation at LSE, spoke about how procurement needed to prepare itself for digital disruption.

If you are a regular reader of the Procurious Blog, then you will be aware that we have a keen interest in future technologies. From drones and last mile logistics, to blockchain, we’re aiming to keep up to date with the impact on global supply chains.

So with this in mind, we revisit what was a fascinating keynote.

Prepare for Disruption!

Professor Wilcocks kicked off with the following statement: “Technology will disrupt pretty much everything between now and 2025.” This isn’t just the world of business, though that will see a massive change. But it’s also everything we do, see, touch, and encounter in our daily lives.

According to the GEP Procurement Outlook 2016, there are 5 so-called “supertrends” we need to be on the look out for. These are:

  1. Heightened impact of geo-politics
  2. Shift of economic power to the USA and emerging economies
  3. Continued decline in global commodity prices
  4. Increased impact of climate change
  5. Push to Digital

It’s safe to say that all five have been highly visible during this year. We’ll be keeping an eye out for 2017’s “supertrends” with great interest!

However, it’s the fifth trend that Professor Wilcocks focused most on. He believes that much of the interconnectedness and innovation being seen in procurement comes from the application of technology.

As we have frequently stated, procurement cannot afford to ignore technology. If it does, it cannot deliver true value to organisations, and faces redundancy, or obsolescence, in a fast-changing world.

Rise of “The Cloud Corporation”

Happily, the assembled procurement professionals were given a list of technologies to watch over the next 4-5 years. These fell into an easy to remember acronym, SMAC/BRAID.

  • Social Media
  • Mobile Technology
  • Analytics (Big Data)
  • Cloud Service
  • Blockchain
  • Robotics
  • Automation
  • Internet of Things
  • Digitisation or Digital Fabrication

These technologies all link together to help the emergence of digital businesses. Or as Professor Wilcocks put it, “The Cloud Corporation.” They also provide a number of opportunities and challenges for businesses. They need to be more agile, and manage on a ‘micromultinational‘ level, but it also opens up the potential for major process innovation.

However, Wilcocks did give one caveat on technology and innovation. No-one knows how to fully maximise the potential of technology. The only way to do this is by learning by making mistakes, something less agile organisations have proven themselves to be less good at in the past.

Transforming the Supply Chain

So how does all this fit together with disruption to the global supply chain? For the most part, the disruption has already started, and, as a result, organisations are playing catch up. However there are some tactics that can be used.

  • Organisational – realigning organisations strategy for supply chains on a functional, geographical or regional level.
  • Technological – ensuring supply chains are integrated to work best through better connectivity.
  • People – traditional pyramid structures aren’t optimised for the digital era. Human talent in the digital supply chain should be organised as a diamond, providing a more streamlined hierarchy, and better training opportunities at the lowest levels.

Switching the focus to the benefits of automation showed how the technologies could impact productivity. Traditionally, organisations have used five methods to transform their supply chains:

  1. Centralise
  2. Standardise
  3. Optimise
  4. Relocate to Low Cost Region
  5. Technology Enablement

However, there is a sixth that can, and is already, increasing productivity in supply chains – automation. It’s estimated that by automating, an extra 3-4 per cent can be added, on top of the efficiencies found in the other measures, by automating processes.

Final Word on Blockchain

There was one final word on blockchain before the end of the keynote. The disruption being caused by blockchain is, in itself, a protector for organisations from being disrupted. And organisations can leverage the technology to aid transparency, governance, and authentication.

Blockchain can also help with the evolution of “smart contracts”. These contracts can have rules set for automatically storing data, and executing commands.

Could it help to disrupt the disruptors? Probably, yes. Operating the technology at its most effective level could remove the need for banks, lawyers, credit cards, and even auditors, in the procurement process.

Whatever the challenges that exist, surely that’s something to aim for. Isn’t it?