Gartner Highlights Top Supply Chain Technology Themes in 2022

June 15, 2022

Thirty-four percent of supply chain leaders say that adapting to new technology is the most important strategic change supply chain organizations will face five years from now.

The 2022 top technology themes are: hyperautomation 2.0, next generation robots, autonomous things, digital supply chain twin, analytics everywhere, security mesh, ecosystem collaboration and sustainability tools.

Gartner analysts selected the top technology themes for their potential to deliver automation, intelligence and resiliency within the organization.

With increasing pressure on supply chain leaders to implement technological responses to disruptions, supply shortages and security incidents, Gartner, Inc. has identified the top 8 supply chain technology themes in 2022. Gartner analysts have selected the themes for their potential to deliver automation, intelligence and resiliency.

“According to a Gartner survey among 211 supply chain professionals in December 2021, 34% of respondents said that adapting to new technology is the most important strategic change supply chain organizations will face five years from now,” said Dwight Klappich, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “Supply chain leaders must take multidisciplined approaches for identifying innovative technologies and orchestrate the right technology investments at the right place and the right time.”

Dr. Thomas Evans, Chief Robotics Technology Officer for Honeywell added, "Gartner’s recent supply chain report echoes what we at Honeywell have told businesses of all sizes as they plan for their strategic futures. From hyperautomation 2.0, next generation robots, autonomous tech and digital supply chain twins – Honeywell is actively helping companies implement the most advanced technology in their supply chain operations. By innovating and delivering automation and intelligence, supply chains can achieve resiliency to meet consumer demands.

With changes in supply chains evolving at an unprecedented rate, Honeywell's robotic and automation warehouse technology provides holistic visibility throughout operations. Automation hardware optimally functions by integrating technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), and computer vision and software. As an example, articulated robotics for pick-and-place tasks rely heavily on machine-learning and intelligence algorithms to handle the dynamic variations of distribution and fulfillment centers.

A robot’s ability to identify products and determine the optimal response is critical to operational efficiency and throughput. Although automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can deliver immediate benefits, they will run at less-than-optimal throughput rates unless they’re managed intelligently. Leveraging advanced decision intelligence using ML and AI can enable AS/RS shuttle systems integrated with goods-to-person (GTP) fulfillment stations to deliver a 30 to 40% increase in throughput compared to traditional picking methods, reduce labor costs, and achieve up to 99.9% order accuracy.

From concepting and integrating autonomous solutions to industry-leading lifecycle support services, Honeywell draws on its expanding portfolio and deep industry expertise to help distribution and fulfillment companies optimize and manage their processes. The business offers integrated end-to-end automation solutions, voice-guided software, warehouse execution software, and analytics solutions to improve operational performance and enhance worker safety."

The top supply chain technology themes in 2022 are:

Hyperautomation 2.0

Hyperautomation is a business-driven approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible through the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Hyperautomation 2.0 goes past this initial focus on AI and ML and integrates other technologies and tools of the technology portfolio.

During the next five years, hyperautomation 2.0 will be part of initiatives in warehousing, transport, production and others. Solutions will include intelligent remote fulfillment networks in warehouse or yard management domains and personalized e-commerce applications.

John Peck, President of FastFetch said, "I mostly agree with this prediction but integration of these technologies into existing complex technologies will be extremely challenging within 5 years. The best candidates for this integration will be those systems that were designed with open architectures that are simpler in design and operation. Many companies will be reluctant to adopt new systems that involve complex integrations since their existing systems are “mission critical”, meaning if the resulting systems fail the results could be catastrophic and could put them out of business."

Next Generation Robots

Enterprise-centric next-generation robots are rapidly moving from the science fiction space to real-life production platforms, transforming a wide range of industries. These robots are more flexible and adaptive and now can be applied to a variety of tasks. In the future, companies will have heterogeneous fleets of robots where work will have to be orchestrated across different robots — meaning that robots have to interact with each other and need to communicate with other types of automated equipment like elevators and doors.

John Peck, President of FastFetch explained, "Large companies may benefit from these types of robot fleets but smaller companies will likely not be able to afford complex systems of robots. These smaller companies will seek lower cost technologies that will make humans many times more efficient and effective. These smaller companies will seek to either produce the same output with fewer humans or produce greater output with the same number of humans."

Autonomous Things

Autonomous things, such as robots, vehicles or drones can augment traditional manually intensive physical tasks with greater efficiency, clarity and safety. Working independently or in networks they also enhance a new generation of immersive work and customer experiences through enhanced service efficiency and transparency. Autonomous things support safer, more efficient and optimized processes and operations across supply chains.

"I don’t see this happening within 5 years in order fulfillment. Today about 60+% of distribution center labor is in order fulfillment, and in most picking applications people will still be required to retrieve products from storage, and position them into shipping containers in a way that minimizes wasted space. Except for a limited number of specialized applications, end effectors that can retrieve an arbitrary shaped product are will not as flexible as humans at these tasks," said John Peck, President of FastFetch.

Digital Supply Chain Twin

The digital supply chain twin (DSCT) is a digital representation of the physical - often multienterprise - supply chain. It is the basis for local and end-to-end (E2E) decision making that ensures that all decisions are aligned horizontally and vertically throughout the supply chain. Through its connection to the real world, situational awareness is greatly enhanced, and decisions can be made faster and more accurate.

John Peck, President of FastFetch added, "This is a laudable goal, but the challenges required for sharing digital data in “end-to-end” supply chains involving multiple, independent companies will present significant obstacles to implementation."

Analytics Everywhere

Analytics are capabilities that deliver reporting, interactive data visualization, advanced analytics and intelligence — including ML and predictive and prescriptive analytics. With the ever-growing availability of data, AI can now be applied to transform data into information and deeper insights as part of a DSCT.

John Peck, President of FastFetch commented, "This will happen within a limited number of supply chain segments composed of companies willing to share data, but obstacles to implement these analytics across long supply chains will continue to persist."

Security Mesh

Security mesh is a structured framework of governance, collaboration and applied technology applications that are orchestrated from within supply chains with the aim of ensuring supply chain systems, tools, applications and people are safe and secure at all times.

“Security in supply chains is only as strong as its weakest link,” Klappich said. “Security mesh embraces the reality of dynamic, interconnected and increasingly digitalized supply chains by addressing an evolving nexus of threats posed by cyber, digital and data.”

John Peck, President of FastFetch noted, "Security Mesh tools will continue to be developed and implemented as more companies who have weak security protection are damaged by cyber criminals."

Ecosystem Collaboration

Ecosystem collaboration tools are digital technologies and services that create a collaborative work environment for people and generates new and continuous shared value opportunities. The pandemic has revealed to supply chain leaders that many supply chains don’t have basic communications or digital connectivity in place with key stakeholders, such as multi-tier supply networks or packaging networks – which has ramifications on decision making.

Ecosystem collaboration solutions and services establish foundational network visualization and mapping tools to support continuous maturity in advancing to real-time digital connections across people, data, machines, systems, processes and things.

John Peck, President of FastFetch explained,"This type collaboration will continue to grow in the next 5 years, but will be somewhat limited by concern for data protection – especially when this type protection must be provided by entities outside the control of the companies whose data is being shared."

Sustainability Tools

Sustainability tools are an evolving spectrum of applications, services and capabilities that support events associated with directives for sustainability, environmental and circular economy impacts and mandates. They enhance levels of digitalization, collaboration and visibility, which is often crucial to formalize the processes and management disciplines needed for a progressive evolution of sustainability programs.

“Sustainability has impacts that span the entire value chain — from plan, to source, to make, to deliver, to the service domain. Supply chain leaders who don’t invest in tools that support a wide range of sustainability goals and metrics risk a significant impact on brand, company image and consumer value perception. There’s also a risk of stranded assets, vulnerability to carbon tax, unpreparedness for climate-related supply chain disruptions – and accordingly shareholder value,” Klappich concluded.

John Peck, President of FastFetch added, "Unfortunately, concerns for sustainability are often trumped by concerns for maximizing profits. These concerns don’t always properly include the long term costs of not investing in sustainable systems but sometimes keeping the business sustainable prohibits a large investment in sustainable systems."

According to Akshay Sharma, CTO, Kovair Software, and former Gartner Analyst, “We agree with the Gartner findings that supply chains and operational logistics solutions need to be re-invented with Hyperautomation 2.0. In the next few years, IT leaders in firms with complex logistics will need to innovate with Hyperautomation Platforms, through acquisition, internal R&D, or via strategic partnerships with companies like Kovair. Hyperautomation Platforms involves the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools or platforms including process mining, unstructured and structured data ingestion, AI/ML, digital twins, RPA: Robotic Process Automation, iPaaS: integration Platform as a Service, Workflow Process software and other types of decision support tools, which Kovair uniquely provides, including Cloud-based Service Mesh solutions, with security, resiliency and process compliance engineered in.”

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