In brief

In brief

  • We surveyed supply chain leaders across industries to understand the current and expected impact of new technologies on the supply chain ecosystem.
  • This research explores the challenges and opportunities of adopting new technologies and how they help solve complexities in the supply chain.
  • Below are examples of outcomes driven by digitization, analytics and automation to prove how these technologies are transforming the supply chain.

The need for an intelligent supply chain

The supply chain revolution is happening right now. With the continuous need to enhance customer experience, businesses are adopting new and efficient ways to procure, manage and handle goods and materials, leveraging new technologies such as digitization, analytics and automation. These intelligent technologies help unify the supply chain ecosystem and augment their human workforce to make more accurate, data-based decisions—faster.

Accenture conducted a cross-industry survey of supply chain leaders to understand their perspectives and the challenges they face. While some of these leaders may have already begun adopting some of these new technologies, they do so inefficiently and are still encumbered by older legacy systems that hold them back from creating a full end-to-end experience.

With a rising shift in consumer expectation, increased labor costs in developing countries and significant pressure to reduce the time from innovation to product, supply chains must look and operate differently in the coming years than they have in the past.

Why adopt intelligent technologies?

An efficient supply chain utilizes intelligent technologies to unify and integrate their ecosystem and augment decision making for their human workforce, which can create exponential growth opportunities for their business.


of executives report their company has experienced revenue growth or increased profitability as a result of leveraging digitization, analytics and automation.


agree that greater investment in new technology is the fastest path to being an industry disruptor.


of executives who dedicated more than half of their budget to digitization, analytics and automation report outcomes that meet or exceed their expectations.

With change comes challenges

Companies—across all industries—feel increased pressure to cut down on delivery times and logistical costs while maintaining accuracy and efficiency. This pushes companies to adopt intelligent technologies that streamline the logistics of their supply chain operations, which in turn provide greater agility and better decision making. However, even as companies begin to explore leveraging these new technologies, like AI, supply chain leaders are daunted by some of the challenges.

Three key challenges are keeping supply chain leaders up at night:

  • Utilizing the data gathered from AI systems to deliver actionable insights
  • Integrating data to develop a fully automated supply chain
  • Finding skilled employees who possess the knowledge and training to launch AI projects

But the benefits are greater

While implementing new intelligent technologies comes with challenges, the advantages far outweigh them. We see faster deliveries through better-optimized routes, enhanced demand forecasting functions and improved asset utilization through more accurate predictive analysis.

For example, logistics providers like DHL have started devoting more resources to make shipment data more accessible for future analysis. Others, like UPS, are improving both driver and customer experience by leveraging real-time insights to auto-plan and optimize daily routes—getting packages where they need to be faster. It's now becoming clear that adopting intelligent automation is the key factor in creating an efficient and agile supply chain—one that's ready for the future.

A supply chain that has these processes in place will provide real-time visibility across all supply chain functions—from design and R&D to sourcing and procurement, demand planning, manufacturing and much more. These features, working in unison with the implementation of algorithm-based demand sensing, will improve forecast accuracy and optimize working capital usage. This is the bedrock of a mature intelligent supply chain.

So, what now?

Digitization, analytics and automation are transforming today’s supply chain ecosystem, creating more agile, effective and integrated workflows. While data quality, security and availability are essential in responsibly implementing new intelligent technologies, companies that overcome these barriers to fully adopt intelligent technologies gain real business outcomes and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Frode Huse Gjendem

Managing Director – Global Supply Chain and Operations Analytics

David Simchi-Levi

Engineering System Professor, Director – Forum for Supply Chain Innovation, MIT


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