The 2014 Scorecard

Unleashed Software CEO Gareth Berry looks back over three of
the biggest predictions made for the manufacturing and logistics industry in 2014,
to see how the prognosticators fared.

Prediction #1: The rise of the demand-driven supply chain

Thanks to the rising popularity of agile methodologies,
there’s been a lot of discussion about changing the focus of the supply chain
from pull (forecast driven) to push (demand-driven).

However, creating a market-responsive system relies on the
ability to readily access and share data along the supply chain.

In particular, it requires an accurate knowledge of
inventory, exceptional visibility into demand and consumption, and the ability
to quickly act on changes.

Five years ago, the technologies to support such a view were
not within reach of many organisations, especially small to medium enterprises,
due to cost and resource considerations.

By the eve of 2014, this had changed: The cloud had brought apps for every
logistics need within the reach of all, offering businesses the opportunity to
gather more data about their business, market and customers than ever
before.

In addition, companies adopting Agile approaches to the
supply chain were reporting solid market success.

Hence, the prediction that the demand-driven supply chain
would finally gain momentum.

Twelve months on, we may not have seen the end of the
forecast-driven supply chain but it’s clear a shift has begun.

Demand-driven strategies are gaining adherents and continue
to intrigue the market. With additional
developments such as big data (see below) on the horizon, it’s reasonable to
assume that the change from pull to push will continue into 2015.

Prediction #2: Big data and analytics

For the last year at least, everyone seems to have been
spruiking the unrealised value of big data, the mass of structured and
unstructured data that sits within every organisation.

The idea was that by mining this information, by correlating
diverse, previously siloed data, organisations would gain insights that would
enable them to improve production, better forecast demand, engage in analytics
and more.

At the end of 2013, many vendors were said to be working
hard to develop ways of easily and quickly harnessing the data, and analysts
were predicting that big data would be one of the biggest trends of the year
ahead.

So has it lived up to expectations? The topic has definitely made waves,
primarily among large enterprises and government departments, but if we were to
be honest, it remains a tool for the future.

The potential uses are so broad that while everyone agrees
there will be benefit from using big data, exactly how data should be used,
what data should be used, and the benefits will be remain ill-defined.

My guess is that it will take a few more years before big
data catches on in a big way.

In the meantime, use cases will emerge almost by stealth as
businesses applications begin to engage a wider and wider range of
organisational data.

Because of their comparative agility and reach, cloud
applications will lead the way in this trend.

Prediction #3: The need to upgrade systems will see
businesses become more open to new approaches to technology

The ERP and supply chain systems that are being deployed
today are vastly different to those of five or ten years ago.

The cloud, mobile apps, mobile devices and social media are
redefining the way we do business.

We have tremendous flexibility to select from on premise,
cloud and hybrid systems, integrated suites of applications and best-of-breed
solutions.

Where old-style solutions embraced a certain predictability,
in the post-GFC world, technologies that enhance responsiveness and agility are
key.

The prediction was accurate, but openness to new
experiences, approaches and methodologies will become an essential trait in the
foreseeable future, when everyone in a market is chasing competitive advantage.