According to "Supply Chain Hot Trends Q2 2017," a recent report from the research and event company eyefortransport (eft), blockchain and chatbot technologies are poised to have a significant impact on supply chain operations within the next year or two. The report's findings are based on a survey of more than 300 supply chain executives.
The survey found a dramatic uptick in companies interested in blockchain, or distributed ledger, technology. In the fourth quarter of 2016, a little more than 52 percent of companies were not engaging with blockchain technology in any way. In the second quarter of 2017 that number dropped to just under 39 percent of respondents.
According to the survey, 36 percent believe that blockchain technology will have the biggest impact on data interchange in the supply chain, and 17 percent believe the technology's biggest impact will be on supply chain visibility and tracking. Other potential impacts include building trust, "smart" (automated) contracting, and payments. Almost 16 percent of respondents were not familiar enough with blockchain technology to have an opinion, and 5 percent said it would have no impact on supply chain operations.
Another technology the report identified as having a big impact on supply chain operations in the near term is chatbots, or computer programs that are designed to have simple conversations with human users. Fifty-one percent of respondents to the eft survey said that their organizations are developing chatbot technology. This development may seem surprising, as chatbots are most often associated customer service operations. But the report's author, Haley Garner, head of research and content at eft, argues that it makes sense when you consider supply chain's increasingly customer-centric approach. Chatbots could be crucial for helping businesses manage all their customer touchpoints, he said.