Industry Reports

Top Technologies Disrupting Supply Chain Industry

robot artificial intelligence technologies smiling bot supply chain industry

Last month, 4,000 movers and shakers from the manufacturing and supply chain world attended the ProMat show in Chicago, Ill. 

Hosted by MHI, a leading non-profit trade association representing the U.S. material handling, logistics and supply chain industry, one of the show’s main takeaways was a discussion of the key technologies that are disrupting – and anticipated to disrupt – supply chain as a whole.

In their 2017 Annual Industry Report, they detail what these technologies are and how they will impact the supply chain industry of the future:

  • Robotics & Automation – The design and use of computer-controlled machines to automatically perform a series of actions or tasks traditionally performed by humans.
  • Inventory & Network Optimization Tools – Models and tools to help companies design networks to produce, store and distribute efficiently and effectively to serve customers.
  • Predictive Analytics – The practice of extracting information from existing data sets in order to determine patterns and trends to predict future events or outcomes.
  • Driverless Vehicles and Drones – A computer-guided device that can move about without a human being in control, either on the ground (a vehicle) or in the air (a drone).
  • Sensors and Automatic Identification – Technologies to automatically identify, locate and profile supply chain objects and to capture and communicate associated data and information across the supply chain.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – Defined by Wikipedia as “the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as ‘connected devices’ and ‘smart devices’), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.”

Below, you’ll see how the 1,100 participants rated this technology and its impact on their industry:


As you’ll notice, the top three are:

  1. Robotics and Automation
  2. Predictive Analytics
  3. IoT

Check out how 10 innovations are seen as disruptive or a source of competitive advantage:


If you’ve read any of our past industry reports, you’ll know that interconnectivity, drones, robotics, and IoT are some of the fastest growing technologies and are impacting many industries besides the supply chain industry.  They’re definitely here to stay – but not always so easy to implement.

For instance, MHI points out some of the main reasons people are hesitant (or unable) to implement IoT:


They also showed what supply chain leaders identified in 2015, 2016, and 2017 as different steps they were taking to be (as the report is titled) “Next Generation Supply Chains: Digital, On-Demand and Always-On”-


As you see, there’s an upward trend in three main areas:

  1. Partnering with vendors to better understand applications and business benefits
  2. Recruiting for different skillsets to align with the needs of the future
  3. Began piloting new technologies

There’s a few different takeaways from this chart particularly:

  1. If you’re involved in the supply chain industry, look at and explore the different ways your peers are working towards adapting to these new technologies so they aren’t so much as disruptive as helpful. Have you started implementing or adapting their approaches? Would it be helpful for your industry?
  2. If you’re involved in HR, recruiting, or talent development, look for workers than have the skills you need.
  3. If you’re involved in workforce development for your area, and the supply chain industry is burgeoning one, does your local workforce have the skills and training they need for the rapidly-advancing supply chain industry? If not, are you working with your local universities, colleges, and technical schools to ensure these trainings are available?
  4. If you’re a vendor, manufacturer, or service provider involved in one of these new technologies, there are lots of opportunities here!
  5. But keep in mind – 11% have started piloting these new technologies already. Are you at the forefront of the RFI/RFP process?

If you work in or are affected in any way by the supply chain industry and the innovative technologies highlighted in this article, I definitely encourage you to check out the whole report if you have the time.

The supply chain industry is certainly on the brink of change – and we’re excited to see what happens!

Questions or comments? Please contact Michelle Philippon at