Business leaders who think of supply chains as cost centers that function well enough using outdated systems can no longer a ord to hold that view. “In today’s market, a company needs to know where its goods are in moments, not hours or days,” said Kendra Phillips, Chief Technology O cer and Vice President, New Products at Ryder. “You have to be able to make quick decisions based on accurate data.” Escalating consumer demands and unpredicta­ble global shocks are redefining the supply chain as a key competitiv­e di erentiator, Phillips said. After all, supply chain disruption­s on average cost companies 42 percent of a year’s earnings over a decade, according to McKinsey. “Companies are realizing that automating or digitizing their supply chains helps them compete better in the market and get better returns,” Phillips said.

How To Start Modernizin­g

While barriers to supply chain modernizat­ion are real concerns—cost, legacy systems and employee resistance, among them—Phillips believes businesses can successful­ly undertake such initiative­s by working incrementa­lly. Her advice to companies lacking digital maturity: Ensure all data is speaking the same language/ that you have the same data structure across your legacy systems, go modular with tech which limits the need to rip out old systems, and layer on data integrator­s that are specific to objectives. In addition, business leaders must gain employee buy-in by showing them how the new technology will make their work easier and improve the business. “You have to answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ question,” Phillips said. “You can spend a lot of money on technology, but if your workforce won’t use it, it won’t drive any value,”

High-Impact Technologi­es

Once a supply chain is digitized and underpinne­d by strong IT infrastruc­ture, businesses can begin to think about incorporat­ing more advanced technologi­es. Predictive and prescripti­ve analytics, for example, can use supply chain data to flag anomalies before they cause problems and course-correct proactivel­y. “Instead of throwing people at the next problem, we can let the tech identify issues and suggest actions to mitigate,” Phillips said. Phillips is most excited about autonomous vehicles. Questions addressing how businesses will buy autonomous loads and if shippers will buy their own AV fleets are unanswered for now. No matter which way AV technology is used, it will be revolution­ary in ironing out labor-related supply chain challenges, Phillips said. Sensor-based Internet of Things (IoT) technology is also worth watching because it promises continuous tracking at the product level, rather than at the trailer or truck level, which is the case today. “When sensor costs decrease, use cases in the supply chain will expand,” she said.

Test-Driving Startup Tech

Given technology’s potential to deliver a competitiv­e advantage, Ryder is supporting startups in supply chain-related verticals through its recently launched capital ventures fund RyderVentu­res™. “Our goal with RyderVentu­res is to identify industry-changing technology early, invest in that technology and then use the breadth and depth of Ryder services and industries to help that startup grow,” Phillips said. RyderVentu­res also brings the new technology to customers. “We can say to our customers, ‘Don’t worry, we got your back, we know what’s out there, and we will bring it to you.’ Customers don’t have to worry about staying on top of fast-moving technologi­es,” Phillips said. “We’re doing it on their behalf.”

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