Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD May-Jun 2017 Contents PAUL GREENBERG
here has been a flurry of local and global
retail events over the last weeks, which I
have attended or reviewed and gleaned
some powerful current insights and trends.
Now, since I commenced writing this column,
I have been upfront that in good conscience, I
cannot call myself an expert in supply chain and
logistics, despite having worked in eCommerce
for over two decades.
Retail is detail, and eCommerce especially so.
One has to, by necessity, become a ‘jack of all
trades, master of none’, and of course hire-in
the specialist expertise as your business scales.
What I have been good at is identifying
current trends and themes in broad retail and
applying them to the many facets of a retail
ecosystem, including supply chain. So let me
have a go here. There are four key themes
coming out of shoptalk in Las Vegas in late
March, and they all begin with ‘A’.
1. Augmented reality (AR)
Wikipedia defines augmented reality as “a live
direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world
environment whose elements are augmented
(or supplemented) by computer-generated
sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or
Our friends at DHL, who are very bullish
about the application of AR to the supply chain
area, homed in on the following applications on
their Elementum Blog, and they are two very
useful applications indeed.
Firstly, picking optimisation. While pick-by-light
and voice-picking have been excellent tools in
the pickers’ arsenal, we can look forward to a
scenario where each picker sees a ‘digital picking
list’ on a heads-up display, like a Google Glass
or Oculus. When an item is selected, the display
calculates the most efficient path through the
warehouse and guides the picker to the package,
scans it as ‘picked’ into the WMS, and then
directs the picker to the next closest package.
Secondly, facility planning will also get a
massive boost from AR. We will be able to
visualise our next warehouse in full scale before
even beginning construction, allowing us to
model workflows through the facility and ‘field-
test’ rearrangements, all virtually. And if you
need any help with the above, my teenage sons
who are passionate gamers, would be happy to
assist. Seems a lot of teenagers live in the AR
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI can broadly be defined as the theory and
development of computer systems able to
perform tasks normally requiring human
intelligence, such as visual perception, speech
recognition, decision making, and translation
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what AI will mean
for supply chain in the coming years, but a few
applications would certainly include increasing
innovation in robotics and biometric recognition.
Also, the rise and rise of autonomous/driverless
vehicles will improve efficiencies in most links in
the supply chain. The Internet of Things (IoT) will
also be piggy-backing on the rise of AI and we will
see the rise and rise of the smart hyperconnected
warehouse, where running a supply chain could
be as easy as pushing some buttons.
Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire is quoted
as saying that “in this new wave of technology,
you can’t do it all yourself, you have to form
alliances”. The co-creation of technology-led
solutions will continue to build between service
providers and customers, and increasingly we
will see the ‘frenemy’ model build, with alliances
coming from unlikely sources, yet working for
the benefit of the customer and the company.
4. Agile methodology
Agile methodology is terminology and
methodology usually applied to software
development, and it speaks to a nimble way of
teams working together to deliver outputs.
One CIO I worked with only ran stand-up
meetings, no chairs! A definition of agile
methodology is: “Agile methodology is an
alternative to traditional project management,
typically used in software development. It helps
teams respond to unpredictability through
incremental, iterative work cadences, known as
sprints. Agile methodologies are an alternative to
waterfall, or traditional sequential development.”
While this definition refers to practice, in truth
it is less about technology and more about an
evolving attitude and commitment to lightning-
fast decision making.
As the saying goes, ‘it is not the big eating
the small in the new digital world, it is the fast
eating the slow’.
Paul Greenberg is the founder and executive
director of NORA.org.au.
Warehouse Management Systems since 1988
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CURRENT RETAIL TRENDS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS
TO SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
TRENDS TO WATCH
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — MAY / JUNE 2017
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