AI, IoT, and analytics top Gartner poll for top supply chain trends

Gartner found that companies are looking to automate and digitize as much of their business as possible with new tools like AI and analytics.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics are both becoming big boons for companies trying to digitize their supply chains according to research firm Gartner.

In their 2019 study of the top supply chain trends, they found that companies are quickly realizing they can save money and manpower by adopting things like AI, predictive or prescriptive analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

"Within the next five years, if half of large global companies are using some of these technologies in their supply chain operations, it's safe to say that the technologies will disrupt people, business objectives and IT systems," said Gartner's vice president of research Christian Titze in a press release.

"These technologies are those that supply chain leaders simply cannot ignore."

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Gartner highlighted a number of different trends that all revolved around efforts to roboticize supply chains and digitize mountains of data. Companies have still been slow to adopt AI and IoT devices but now that they have, they can use the data gathered by these tools to make better business decisions.

The research firm said that the "increased availability of Internet of Things data and extended external data sources such as weather or traffic conditions allow organizations to anticipate future scenarios and make better recommendations in areas such as supply chain planning, sourcing and transportation."

"AI supports the shift to broader supply chain automation that many organizations are seeking. For example, AI can enhance risk mitigation by analyzing large sets of data, continuously identifying evolving patterns, and predicting disruptive events along with potential resolutions," Titze said in the report.

"Advanced analytics are not new, but their impact on today's supply chains are significant. They will help organizations become more proactive and actionable in managing their supply chains, both in taking advantage of future opportunities and avoiding potential future disruptions."

Analysts at Gartner said their research showed companies were using tools like IoT devices to improve customer service systems and streamline logistics management. Businesses also were able to cut costs this year by automating their systems with the help of robots that "reduce human intervention and improves consistency across manual data sources within manufacturing."

These kinds of robots are integral for businesses trying to reduce the amount of time and effort that goes into producing things like purchase or sale orders. Many of the trends on Gartner's list were similar in that companies were realizing they could automate many of the processes that are often the most cumbersome.

Gartner finished off their list by touting tools like blockchain, AR and VR systems as well as autonomous devices, which have replaced many of their real-world counterparts.

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By Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.