In the past, enterprise technology professionals and managers were largely focused on keeping the back end of the business running. Now, it's all about digitalization, keeping up with trends and setting a rapid pace of technology innovation, according to Sally Miller, DHL Supply Chain North America, in an interview with CIO Dive. "Business leaders are asking for more innovation. So they're hearing about new technologies that can reduce their need for labor [and] provide better visibility for operations to make better decisions."
What's changed for the industry is that more solutions have a lower price point creating more flexibility for generating return. The flexibility and ease of access to technology solutions makes it easier to modernize, Miller said. "Technology investments have always and still will be based on the return that they generate. If something is too expensive and doesn't generate the return, no one did it."
For example, in the past at DHL Supply Chain, robotics simply consisted of conveyors with some automation deployed, Miller said. Now the company can look for robotic solutions at a lower price point with more flexibility. Working with robotics companies, DHL Supply Chain pilots solutions and deploys them throughout some of their sites, Miller said. Those looking to deploy robotics aren't tied to a certain layout because of cost, making room for more experimentation and innovation.
As technology portfolios become more advanced across the enterprise, CIOs are in unique positions to manage the deployment process.
To avoid unnecessary spending and product redundancy, CIOs have to make clear plans and long-term goals for technology deployment. Without a sense of near and long-term direction, companies could incur wasteful tech spending.
In supply chain, technology is often applied to a physical counterpart. Beyond software solutions for back office needs, DHL Supply Chain has to consider how it can weave technology into the physical transfer of goods.
This need has paved the way for the company to experiment with visibility solutions, robotics and augmented reality displays. Part of DHL Supply Chain's near-term goals are to assess new technologies like these available on the market and turn these into products, Miller said.
The company has to work with vendors and evaluate their current offerings to see where new products could fit into the the technology road map. From there, it's all about experimentation and use case deployment to economically scale solutions to a broader customer base in the medium term.
With the application of new technology, DHL Supply Chain s delving further into the internet of things world, which creates network demands as technology is scaled. In response, before DHL Supply Chain deploys "any product to any site," it evaluates the architecture needed to support it, Miller said. Network bandwidth is a piece of it, plus DHL Supply Chain has to understand how it's going to mine and analyze data once its gathered.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the company is DHL Supply Chain.