An emerging theme in the practitioner literature suggests that the supply chain of the future – enabled especially by developments in ICT – will be autonomous and have predictive capabilities, bringing significant efficiency gains in an increasingly complex and uncertain environment. This paper aims to both bridge the gap between the practitioner and academic literature on these topics and contribute to both practice and theory by seeking to understand how such developments will help to address key supply chain challenges and opportunities.
A multi-disciplinary, systematic literature review was conducted on relevant concepts and capabilities. A total of 126 articles were reviewed covering the time period 1950-2018.
The results show that both IoT and AI are the technologies most frequently associated with the anticipated autonomous and predictive capabilities of future supply chains. In addition, the review highlights a lacuna in how such technologies and capabilities help address key supply chain challenges and opportunities. A new supply chain model is, thus, proposed, one with autonomous and predictive capabilities: the self-thinking supply chain.
It is our hope that this novel concept, presented here for the first time in the academic literature, will help both practitioners to craft appropriate future-proofed supply chain strategies and provide the research community with a model (built upon multidisciplinary insights) for elucidating the application of new digital technologies in the supply chain of the future. The self-thinking supply chain has the potential in particular to help address some of today’s key supply chain challenges and opportunities.
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