Yesterday evening we were invited along to a Gartner Tech Trends event in association with ScotlandIS. Richard Marshall, Managing VP and Research Director with Gartner, was the headline speaker and offered his expert insight into the technological developments 2017 will serve up. As is the way with these events, the topics of discussion were exciting and filled with insight. Technology is advancing at a speed that can be difficult to keep with on an individual level let alone as a business. But, what was driven home last night was how vital it is for businesses of all shapes and sizes to do what they can to embrace new technology and the benefits it brings. Gaining competitive advantage in your market place is always essential and technology innovation and investment will facilitate a business’ capabilities to do just that.
With this in mind there were 3 key areas raised that are not only applicable to businesses in the future, but available and applicable now.
Digital Twin Technology : Applied to Manufacturing
Digital twin technology has developed out the healthcare industry. It has been used to predict the effects of treatments and disease on patients after creating a matching digital version of a patient allowing doctors to better predict the outcomes of treatment. This is all achieved by using data collected from sensors and using accurate predictive algorithms. This technology is now becoming more wide spread and uses are now applicable to many other industries. For example, Richard Marshall highlighted how manufacturing is already reaping the benefits.
Warehouses, factories and other shop floor services are now using this technology to map out better processes and more effective layouts and design. Using this digital twin technology, a manufacturing business can see how potentially disruptive and risky changes will effective its operations without any disruption or risk. Being able to accurately see the impacts of machinery changes, staffing, process changes and even shift pattern change are just some of the benefits this technology can provide. Yes the implementation of this technology is currently costly, however being able to see whether business changes of this scale are worth the investment and accurately predict the real consequences of a project will offer a potentially huge return over the long term. A vast majority of businesses will have experience of failed business and system change projects and the financial costs they incur. With investment in this technology, the business case for required change can now be even more robust. Albeit that it is probably too early for most businesses at the moment as the costs will be too prohibitive – but no doubt the costs will come down over time making it a more realistic option.
BlockChain: Supply Chain Management
Another technological advancement that has the potential to offer real return. BlockChain is a way of managing the supply chain that removes the room for errors. Developed for Bitcoin there are now businesses investing in the technology for other uses. The main functionality of BlockChain is that it removes the need for sending copied information. Instead sharing the data via a shared network. Richard Marshall went on to explain that this will be hugely beneficial for the supply chain of a business. For example, a common problem every business needs to handle is simple human error. When a business orders a certain amount of product from another, the order quantity is recorded using the systems in place. If human error occurs when dispatching the order and the quantity received is incorrect the current digital or traditional paper trail will show the order being correct and therefore creates a problem for both customer and supplier that can affect customer relationships and of course timescales and bottom line. By having a shared database between suppliers and customers it can reduce the impact of human error in these circumstances. The error can still occur but the shared data allows for the error to be identified and rectified without investigation or impact on trust.
Richard did wrap this up with the fact that although the technology has real benefits, the security and privacy concerns of a shared open database between businesses have yet to be addressed. This is why this technology has yet to have a widespread impact.
Data & Business Systems
The final point is not new. The importance of data, its accuracy, analysis and application. If your business is not going to be ready to make any other technological advances in the short term, it is becoming ever more important that the collection and analysis of accurate business data is top of your priorities. None of the benefits of technological advancement will be seen unless you are able to analyse data in real time. With systems such as ERP, BI, WMS, SCM and CRM now common place, the next stage is leveraging the full value from them. Data is the lifeblood of a business. But to leverage the full value of the business data, the data in your core systems needs to be right, it needs to be trusted, it needs to be understood. Get the data basics right then you can start reaping the rewards and take advantage of the full potential of big data, advanced analytics and so on.