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3 ways technology is transforming supply chains

Companies such as Cisco help illustrate how supply chains are increasingly enmeshed with technology — an important convergence for those tasked with overseeing supply chain sustainability.

Over the last few years, technology quickly has become so integrated into daily life that it seems nearly impossible to imagine a normal workday without some gadget or software to help make life a little easier.

Not only have ordinary citizens adopted tech to suit their needs and desires in the form of smartphones, tablets, wearables and the various applications that exist on these platforms, but entire enterprises and departments within businesses also couldn't function in the manner we've come to expect without it.

There are few areas of life where technology hasn't made a large impact, and that seems to suit the general public just fine. Because of this close integration, technology in and around the supply chain is a vital part of company operations.

Here are a few examples of the importance of technology to supply chain, manufacturing and procurement services:

1. IT leadership meets operations

As businesses across the world realize just how vital technology is to their operations, new positions have been added to address the growing need for expertise. However, some enterprises are opting to put refined knowledge on the subject to use on supply chains, with chief information officers being promoted to senior operations positions.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, Cisco Systems made Rebecca Jacoby, former CIO, the senior vice president of operations and put the well-being of the supply chain in her hands — a move that highlights the importance of technology in supply chain management.

Cisco is not the only company to recognize the shift toward digital. Not only is management easier when leveraging applications for supply chain means, but there's far more control to be had.

IT experts are not only ideal for this position because of their extensive knowledge of existing systems, but they probably are more likely to think of how they can leverage other technologies in the future.

2. Tech-assisted transparency

The best way for a supply chain to run smoothly is to have full transparency across the board.

Suppliers and procurement services are more likely to fall into hot water if they shroud their transactions in secrecy related to environmental or social impacts. And these days, consumers have many questions about the origins of their food, clothing, electronics, etc., and outright transparency would be able to answer those questions with some swift moves of a finger on a smartphone screen.

CoinDesk reported that developers, using technology inspired by BitCoin, are working on an application that will be able to outline and address all questions that someone may have about the supply chain of a given item.

The source noted that restaurants could list the ingredients in a dish and this new applications would be able to tell the diner where the crops came from and how they were grown. Not only is this transparent, but it gives consumers a sense of control — an appealing concept for many discerning "foodies."

3. Keeping a competitive edge

As far as the technological world is concerned, providing the public with the newest software or feature is the most important key to the game. If a company can beat out a competitor by getting the product out just a few weeks before a competitor, it most likely will be seen as the front-runner and an innovator, while the business that falls behind could be seen as a copycat.

The Register noted that Apple has been playing around with the idea of a dual-lens for its camera that helps with depth-sensing technology. Currently, there's no patent for the sensor because there had been many issues and holdups in the supply chain back in 2010.

Of course, Apple is not the only company implementing this sort of camera; competitors such as HTC and Samsung are also looking into such tech.

As these examples demonstrate, technology is already important in and for the supply chain — and it's only going to get more integrated as time goes on.

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