The supply chain that sees ahead

Supply chains have gotten pretty good over the last 20 years. But they can get much, much better, audiences will hear this week at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.

The new magic is 2018-age computing power.

Artificial intelligence, advanced software platforms and the latest tools in data collection and Internet tracking are making it easier to know, more or less, where everything is in real time. And more important, logistics managers will be able to predict more precisely where everything is going to be.

"Unpredictables" can be crunched and turned into manageable knowables, says Cary VandenAvond, president of manufacturing, distribution and logistics for supply chain solutions company JDA Software, who will be talking to customers here this week.

If an ice storm halts traffic on I-75 in Ohio, supply chain managers know where their trucks are stopped and for how much of a delay. But imagine also being able to answer these questions: What is every possible transit alternative and at how much added cost? How will expediting some deliveries during the storm mesh with the rest of the supply chain when it comes to completing production of the car?

"We now have the technology to digitize the entire chain, from end to end, for manufacturers to make optimal decisions," VandenAvond says of the industry. "The more external data we can bring into our decisions, the greater our competitive advantage."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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