Authors: Zisis Kyroudis, Project Manager and Dr. Jovana Milenkovic, Head of Project Management Dpt, Atlantis Engineering S.A.
The emergence of new technologies has deeply affected the present society and have led to the development of complex dependencies between its individual parts. The way the information is exchanged and shared is altered while people communicate with each other through various new channels. The result is that state-of-the art novelties, digital technologies, have started penetrating a wide range of industry fields, opening an era of rapid transformation . Industry 4.0 has already been included in the strategic points of a continuously increasing number of organizations and supply chains (SC) to acquire a competitive advantage . Undoubtedly, Supply Chain is one of the most significant fields in which digitalization can be implemented to correspond to the intense competition shaped by continuously changing demand and supply conditions. Based on the research of FortuneBusinessInsights, the global supply chain management market size was valued at €17.84 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to grow to €43.86 billion by 2029 corresponding to a CAGR of 12.1% .
The concept of the digital supply chain refers to the deployment of advanced solutions; state-of-the art technologies: AI, ML, Big Data to improve efficiency and achieve cost-effective operations. It consists of a key component in any company’s digital transformation and a crucial factor to yield highly competitive advantages. One of the benefits of the Digital Supply Chain lies in optimizing the supply chain lead times, by rapidly assessing the demand requirements and changes and providing a complete view of the SC chain to each SC stakeholder. Furthermore, the adopted approach becomes forward-looking, instead of operating on a reactive basis, predicting future requirements by collecting and analyzing data. To this end, the advent of technology plays a crucial role in the interconnection of all the data sources and the data transparency and accessibility, thus developing a high degree of responsiveness on planning and execution . Also, quite important is the potential of the visualization features that can support the SC manager in better understanding the SC process and changes. By the data visualization of the supply chain, the manager can generate better planned strategies to avoid low efficient practices in improving the SC process. Research from McKinsey has illustrated that the integration of a data engine has led in the inventory reduction by 20% and the improved productivity by 20-30% .
Nonetheless, as happens for each advancement and disruption, there are a few challenges moving from the traditional supply chain process to Supply Chain 4.0. One of the main challenges is the integration/grouping of the multiple systems into one main structure/system. Across the whole supply chain, a varied number of individually working systems exist (planning, production, data management), while a core system to navigate all these is still missing. By extension, poor integration can lead to poor coordination and poor user experience . Another severe challenge can be attributed to the lack of technological competences and qualifications. The ever- and fast- growing technologies complicate the re- and up-skilling of the workers making the technology implementation harder in the industry. It is a necessity to meet the dynamic challenges/needs of human upskilling to adopt and use the digital technologies in Supply Chain 4.0. Furthermore, another major challenge in the digital SC is data security, since critical information is being shared and the competitive advantage of a company highly depends on confidential business data. With the digitalization of processes, the collaboration and data distribution among companies, the security risks are higher and sensitive data can be leaked. It is crucial, simultaneously with the digitalization of the supply chain, the necessary data protection measures to be applied .
In conclusion, the Supply Chain 4.0 can offer many benefits to the industry, nonetheless it is important to take into consideration the challenges that digitalization brings together. In this regard, a concrete implementation strategy should be developed and applied to achieve the highest SC level implementation and benefit gain.
 Gülçin Büyüközkan, Fethullah Göçer, Digital Supply Chain: Literature review and a proposed framework for future research, Computers in Industry, Volume 97, 2018, Pages 157-177, ISSN 0166-3615, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compind.2018.02.010.
 Kamble, S.S., Gunasekaran, A., Ghadge, A. and Raut, R. (2020), “A performance measurement system for industry 4.0 enabled smart manufacturing system in SMMEs-A review and empirical investigation”, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 229, 107853
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