2019 Challenges and Trends for Manufacturing Supply Chains

From AI to machine learning and blockchains, supply chains face a myriad of changes. Gartner, McKinsey, and others offer the following insights to help you leverage the right technologies for the coming year.

New blockchain technologies

If your business doesn’t use blockchains, following are strategic ways to leverage IT for supply chains.

Streamline processes

Blockchains are decentralized, public ledgers that work on peer-to-peer networks. They secure data autonomously. For manufacturing, they provide increased transparency with procurement, suppliers, and partners. Blockchains increase cost savings, reduce risks, raise revenue, and create new business opportunities.

Blockchains also increase efficiencies when used in conjunction with machine learning, AI, and robotics. Look for demand planning software and demand forecasting software that includes features like machine learning and AI to help your business sort through billions of data points to make effective decisions. You’ll also know which processes to automate and which to end.

Reduce paper waste and human errors

Blockchains reduce paper trails because they allow you to create smart contracts that can’t be altered. Blockchains use special code in their distributed ledger structure, which means they can’t be tampered with. This reduces the need for paper contracts and paper trails. It also means businesses don’t have to store contracts, and may not have to work with third-parties for simple contracts.

Blockchains reduce errors in paperwork. One study found that while product recalls cost an estimated $8 million, blockchains use “track-and-traceability.” This allows for real-time audit tracking to help industries maintain their standards and a high level of compliance.

Blockchains improve the quality of products end-to-end in the supply chain and increase transparency. The supply chain is more efficient and its services and features are more optimized and traceable.

New IoT-enabled sensors

McKinsey said that while the Internet of Things (IoT) had a lot of promise, it might be hard for some businesses to embrace these changes. Early adopters are setting the precedents that others will follow once they see the value of IoT.

Along with blockchains, IoT-enabled sensors help streamline product lifecycles in a way that’s superior to RFID tags alone. RFID has begun using IoT for their RFID/IoT sensor adoption.

Optimal tracking features

You can use IoT-enabled sensors and blockchains with every product and share them across every sector, including manufacturing plants, global facilities, customer sites, and in global operations.

The use of smart container applications in supply chains helps to ensure that compliance is maintained and reduces counterfeits. IoT will be pivotal for the consumer packaged goods industry, aerospace and defense, and the medical industry. IoT ensures real-time data that goes beyond basic tracking features; you can monitor each shipment’s location, origin, and all other touch points.

For example, when the temperature changes in a shipment of perishable food products, IoT-enabled sensors alert the supplier. The business may then elect to reject the shipment as the quality has been compromised.

Smart manufacturing

As supply chains look for ways to leverage IT, the manufacturing environment will see enhanced services that offer digitization, transparency, and optimization of all services.

Supply chains need strategic ways to offer end-to-end solutions, which can be achieved through remote monitoring, workforce automation, predictive maintenance, and better asset control. Despite this, some manufacturing organizations are taking a “wait and see” approach to IoT and other types of digitization because they’re not sure about implementation. Early adopters will benefit from IoT-enabled devices that improve how they obtain and use data.

By leveraging IT with partners who are proficient in operational technology (OT), manufacturers are better positioned to deliver the solutions their customers need for future growth.


Blockchains and IoT can drive business value for manufacturing supply chains in 2019. They increase transparency and help with every aspect of manufacturing and improve supply chain efficiencies and reduce costs. While still new technologies, blockchains and IoT look promising for improving order accuracies, compliance, and the quality of products that supply chains need.

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Vanguard Software

About Vanguard Software

Vanguard Software introduced its first product for decision support analysis in 1995. Today, companies across every major industry and more than 60 countries rely on the Vanguard Predictive Planning platform. Vanguard Software is based in Cary, North Carolina.

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