2018: A Supply Chain Odyssey
2018: A Supply Chain Odyssey
In the iconic book and movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the astronaut Dave orders the HAL 9000 spaceship computer to open the bay doors. The highly advanced computer responds, “I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave.” HAL knew that Dave was planning to shut him down and was only trying to preserve his existence, displaying the epitome of artificial intelligence. In 1950, the English computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing created a test that defined artificial intelligence. Simply put, it requires that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both. Here we are in 2018 and we do not yet have computers that have reached the intelligence level of the fictional HAL 9000, nor has any computer passed the Turing Test.
On the other hand, computer or software automation has existed for a long time. In fact, in 1940, Turing himself helped to invent a machine, which was used in WW2 to break the Axis powers’ Enigma encryption codes. We have come a long way since then; automation is now ingrained in our everyday life. Whether it is our programmable thermostat, an ice maker, or bill pay, automation abounds all around us and will only continue to expand.
It is hard to miss all the technology references in current supply chain articles. Terms like Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming commonplace. With reference to the Turing Test, perhaps the term AI is being used a bit too lightly. It seems many of these references to AI are actually describing simple automation. A digitized global supply chain can provide tremendous value by simply automating many of the processes.
Robust Global Trade Management (GTM) software can support automation throughout the sourcing, logistics, and trade operational and compliance processes. During the sourcing process, GTM software can support automatic calculation of the total landed costs, which facilitates better decision making upfront. Automated business rules can be set to alert logistics professionals when a shipment will arrive, to allow for more precise scheduling of resources. Straight through processing can be employed to determine the international carrier based on rate, schedule, or other factors, creating efficiency in the logistics booking process. Export and import regulations can be automatically detected and customs transactions automatically created, which will reduce errors and speed the supply chain. These are just a few examples of software automation for the global supply chain, but there are many more, too many to enumerate here.
Amber Road provides a Global Trade Management (GTM) solution platform called Trade Automation, which provides a digital model of the global supply chain in the cloud. This solution enables companies to automate many of the sourcing, logistics, and trade processes for their cross-border business, creating great value. For all the other processes, we’ll just have to wait for a real HAL 9000 to be invented.