The Record Issue 13: Summer 2019

133 V I EWPO I NT  MANU FAC TUR I NG Optimising the supply chain in the cloud B RUC E K I P P E RMAN : C ENTUR Y L I NK Today, the technology and processes used to manufacture products and get them to market are as critical to a business as the product itself. Cutting-edge technologies, teamed with the Microsoft Azure cloud, can bring new levels of efficiency M anufacturers are constantly under pres- sure to lower costs and maximise profits. From product development to sourcing from thousands of suppliers, an efficient supply chain is key to making products better, faster and at lower costs. Today, the technology and processes used to manufacture a product and get them to market are as critical to a business as the product itself. Extremeweather,achangingpoliticalclimate,tar- iffs, cyberattacks and other factors can have severe repercussions on a supply chain. Disruptions are expensive. According to the Business Continuity Institute’s Supply Chain Resilience Report 2018 , 14% of businesses incurred losses of more than US$1 million dollars due to cumulative supply chain incidents. And disruptions are on the rise. Supply chain disruptions globally nearly dou- bled in 2017 alone, and the first half of 2018 saw record-breaking disruptions. You may not be able to prevent natural disasters or other disruptions, but you can minimise logis- tical disruptions with increased management con- trols and a dose of technology. The obvious solution is to head to the cloud, and Microsoft Azure is a logical choice. It’s agile, flexible and scalable nature makes it the ideal envi- ronment for handling massive amounts of data and millions of transactions in real time. Cloud- based supply chain solutions are in demand by the industry and are quickly replacing traditional on-premises implementations. However, significant advances in artificial intel- ligence (AI), blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies, in concert with the cloud, present an even brighter outlook in minimising disrup- tions and bringing new levels of efficiency to the supply chain. AI and machine learning tackle complicated processes, taking humans out of the loop for manual work and decisionmaking. AnAI-driven system is capable of learning and improving with experience. For example, AI-integrated supply chains can connect to potentially thousands of partners sharing real-time information on pric- ing and availability of raw materials or compo- nents. They can also track and restock depleting supplies, and even scan and track shipments while en route. Another potential game-changer is blockchain. From the perspective of supply chains, a block- chain is a distributed database that enables you to create a digital ledger of transactions – from manufacture to sale – for a product. Anyone in the supply chain with the appropriate permissions may view and add data but cannot change existing data or delete it. Many companies are testing the use of blockchain to track and provide visibility into nearly every element of the supply chain. The ability to minimise disruptions while increasing the efficiency and performance of a supply chain offers a huge competitive advantage. The cloud, along with AI and blockchain, may make a powerful change to how you produce and deliver your products. Bruce Kipperman is vice president of Sales, Managed Services and Services at CenturyLink