Emerging technologies for sustainable supply chains and greener manufacturing


Your supply chains are an essential part of your business. There are various links in the chain that require expertise and the right tools to make it successful.

When you successfully manage your supply chain, it can lower costs and improve profitability.

However, if your supply chain breaks in one part of the chain, it can affect the other links in it and become a large expense.

Another complication in today’s supply chains is ensuring that it is sustainable from a financial and an eco-friendly or “green” perspective.

In this article, we will discuss various emerging technologies that you should be aware of. These technologies will allow you to utilize green manufacturing and create more sustainable supply chains to achieve key business objectives.

Let’s get started.

AI Smart Analytic Tools

When your procurement specialists and suppliers are brought into the power of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and have a good understanding of it, you can strategically improve your business’ ethical stance and make your supply chain more efficient.

AI and robotics allow you to analyze your procurement department in an automated fashion.

You can see more factors and do it more quickly, speeding up the analysis process. It can also optimize your logistics and delivery routes so that you reduce fuel consumption.

For instance, Nestle is pioneering the use of blockchain technology to track their product sourcing data. They are then providing it directly to customers.

For example, they are able to trace milk production in New Zealand and provide the data to warehouses in the Middle East, halfway across the globe.

This means they are providing live data for business-critical objectives with hard evidence.

Tracking the supply chain has been a challenge for most businesses until recently.

Now, information can be shared across the globe in seconds, improving your procurement and other supply chain efficiencies with transparency and trust.

supply chains

Distributed Ledger Technology

Distributed ledger technology is a way to protect your data and improve transparency throughout your organization, preventing errors in your data input and analysis.

It works by creating identical copies — or replications — of data across various “nodes” or machines in different geographical areas.

There is no central authority of the data, so all the machines must vote on the most correct version of the data.

This allows you to automatically verify data using technology, instead of risking human error.

For instance, this is particularly useful in identifying and preventing counterfeit goods, which is a major problem for manufacturers and supply chain managers today.

While you can’t stop criminals from knocking off your products, you can make your supply chain more sustainable by ensuring customers don’t produce higher carbon footprints by ordering counterfeit products.

Of course, this also protects your profits and your products’ reputation.

IoT Devices

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has fundamentally changed the way that you can monitor various machines and resources by allowing technology to bridge the communication gap.

With simple internet chips installed in a range of devices, they can connect to a common network, sending and receiving data.

One of the ways to use IoT devices to create a better, greener manufacturing process is to equip them with sensors that detect temperatures in your factories.

They can modulate and regulate the use of electricity and heating to maintain comfortable temperatures for employees without wasting it.

If you are not using the IoT to your advantage, then you are leaving money on the table.

In addition, your competitors may very well already be using these technologies, meaning that you will fall behind in your ability to achieve sustainable supply chains.

ERP and BI tools

You can manage risk more effectively through the use of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and BI (Business Intelligence) tools.

ERP is a kind of software that manages your daily business activities such as risk management, procurement, and supply chain steps.

For instance, you can use ERP to automate procurement.

Or, in the case of a certain jewelry company, they leveraged ERP to track their sales across locations because it was nearly impossible to perform this manually in a time-sensitive manner.

Once your ERP system is in place, it becomes more feasible to apply BI analysis across your data sets, allowing you to have a central database of customer, sales, procurement, and other key business data.

That way, you are not wasting time on something that technology can automate, and the relatively low power requirements allow you to stay green in your processes.

IoT for Improving Carbon Footprint

IoT allows you to reduce your carbon footprint for a more sustainable and respectable supply chain.

You leverage your internet-connected devices to identify practices that are not sustainable. This applies to environmental as well as financial factors.

For instance, you may identify that a particular manufacturing tool is wasting power between runs, costing you money, and harming the environment.

If this equipment is communicating to an automatic power manager in your IoT grid, it can shut itself off to save energy between producing products.

When you replace high-risk factors due to human error in your supply chain staff with smart technology, you can eliminate costly mistakes.

You can also gain deeper insights into which parts of your manufacturing or procurement process are wasting energy or money to correct these systems and improve your bottom line.

Improve the Production Process

You can improve your production process to reduce waste in manufacturing by leveraging automation. As such, your resources will be conserved better, and you can put them to better use instead of relying on outdated manual processes.

For example, AI is one of the core technologies driving today’s production and QA (Quality Assurance).

One of the most important areas where AI has assisted companies in this regard is with visual inspection.

Machine learning algorithms can provide more accurate visual recognition to improve QA by detecting faults in products almost right away.

This means you can catch low-quality products before they arrive on the market to improve your overall product quality and reputation.

Facility management is another area in which AI helps optimize your resource costs such as cooling, heating, staff management, and electricity.

For instance, Google has given their AI project — Deepmind — complete control to manage the cooling systems in their data centers, saving 30% on energy costs in the process.

You can employ AI tools in your own manufacturing process to automate systems that are already in place manually.

With more data and automation being put to work, you can reduce costs drastically.

In Conclusion

Your supply chain is a series of steps that involve taking your product idea, marketing it, shipping it, and distributing it to customers and retailers for purchase.

Each step is important on its own, but they are more powerful when each step is working together as opposed to causing issues down the chain.

In order to keep up in today’s competitive business landscape, it is important to have a clear vision for your supply chain and improve each step to make your processes more efficient and sustainable.

That way, you can do what’s right for your company, for your customers, and even for the environment all at once.


Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters

Last Updated on February 3, 2021.


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