Blockchain, Digital Workforce Cited as Increasing Adoption of Next Generation Supply Chain Innovations

New MHI report highlights technologies driving next-generation supply chains and ways to overcome the top barriers to adoption

ATLANTA--()--MHI announces the release of the fifth in a series of MHI Annual Industry Reports developed in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting LLP. The 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, titled “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Adoption” provides new insights into trends and technologies that are having a dramatic business impact on supply chains, their security and the people who run them.

Manufacturing and supply chain professionals are facing many challenges but, according to the report, the top ones are increasing customer demands on supply chains (73 percent) and hiring qualified workers (64 percent).

Eleven technologies are working together to create next-generation supply chains that can meet these challenges because they are digital, on-demand and always-on. Eight out of ten survey respondents believe these supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years.

This year’s report provides updates on the innovative technologies MHI predicted would have the most potential to transform supply chains four years ago when the MHI Annual Industry Report was launched. The 2018 report includes two new technologies (Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain) that are rapidly emerging. The report also covers the potential of these technologies to disrupt the industry as well as their adoption rates and common barriers to adoption. The eleven technologies covered in the report are:

  • Blockchain
  • Robotics and automation
  • Predictive analytics
  • Internet of Things
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Driverless vehicles and drones
  • Wearable and mobile technology
  • Inventory and network optimization
  • Sensors and automatic identification
  • Cloud computing and storage
  • 3D printing

"Early adopters are successfully combining NextGen supply chain technologies to improve speed and agility and increase efficiency and visibility,” said George Prest, CEO of MHI.

Potential to disrupt and create competitive advantage

The top technologies respondents say can be a source of either disruption or competitive advantage are:

  • Robotics and automation (65 percent, up from 61 percent in 2017)
  • Predictive analytics (62 percent, up from 57 percent in 2017)
  • The Internet-of-Things (IoT) (59 percent, up from 55 percent in 2017)
  • Artificial Intelligence (53 percent, new category in 2018)
  • Driverless vehicles & drones (52 percent, up from 30 percent in 2015)

Adoption Rates

Cloud computing and storage has the highest current adoption rate at 57 percent. Adoption is expected to grow to 91 percent over the next five years. Inventory and Network Optimization, now at 44 percent adoption is expected to grow to 90 percent over the next five years.

Over the same time frame, Predictive Analytics is expected to reach an 82 percent adoption rate, followed by IoT at 79 percent, Robotics and Automation at 73 percent, Blockchain at 54 percent, Driverless Vehicles and Drones at 50 percent and Artificial Intelligence at 47 percent.

Top Barriers to Adoption

The top three barriers to adoption of these technologies are:

1. Making the business case for NextGen supply chain investments

2. Tackling the supply chain skills gap and workforce shortage

3. Building trust and security in digital, always-on supply chains

Supply Chain Talent Gap

To implement any of these technologies, firms need access to a skilled and increasingly digital supply chain workforce. This has been a theme in all five annual reports and the talent gap is growing as the adoption of these technologies increases.

The top critical skills needed to compete in the next-generation supply chain, according to the survey are strategic problem solving (49 percent), analytics/modeling/visualization (43 percent) and general business acumen and cross-functional knowledge (38 percent).

“Algorithms, automation, sensors, big data and artificial intelligence are dramatically changing what supply chain talent looks like, how to find it and retain it,” added Prest.

Emerging Trend - Blockchain as a Solution to Supply Chain Cybersecurity and Transparency Challenges

When it comes to cybersecurity, the sophistication of hackers and “threat actors” is the biggest risk (44 percent), followed by the lack of awareness of the threat within the organization (40 percent) and poor cybersecurity practices among suppliers (37 percent).

As cybersecurity concerns grow, the demand for transparency at every level of the supply chain is skyrocketing as consumers increasingly expect full information about the origin and history of the products they consume.

Blockchain’s unparalleled ability to enable transparent yet controlled data sharing in a way that is extremely reliable, efficient, and highly-encrypted provides a powerful and robust platform to tackle some of today’s toughest supply chain challenges, while also providing an unmatched level of cybersecurity. This is where blockchain can be a huge supply chain differentiator.

This year's report introduces the topic of Blockchain and examines how it may be the answer to many cybersecurity, trust and transparency challenges of supply chains.

The biggest barrier for blockchain adoption is that very few people understand what it is or how it can realistically be used in their operations. Only 11 percent of respondents believe they have a working understanding of blockchain technology and how it might be applicable to supply chains.

Adoption of blockchain in supply chains stands at 5 percent, but it is projected to jump to 54 percent over the next five years.

Firms across industries can benefit from using blockchain in their supply chains. Automotive manufacturers, food producers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, among others, can take advantage of the immutable and transparent nature of blockchain to track product origin and quickly and discreetly recall products that may have been produced with a defect, helping to minimize brand damage, costs, and customer inconvenience.

The report also provides real-world case studies of NextGen supply chain technologies and recommendations for leaders for developing strategies to implement these innovations.

"The time is now to think big but start small and act fast. You don't need to invest a lot to start testing these technologies," said Scott Sopher, principal and leader of the global supply chain practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

"While the transition to NextGen supply chains is complex, inaction is not a strategy. Ignoring these important developments may leave your supply chain at a severe disadvantage in the future," added Prest.

The findings in this report are based on survey responses from 1,100 manufacturing and supply chain industry leaders from a wide range of industries. Half of respondents hold executive-level positions such as CEO, Vice President, General Manager, or Department Head. Participating companies range in size from small to large, with 47 percent reporting annual sales in excess of $100 million, and 10 percent reporting annual sales of $10 billion or more.

Download the complete report here.

About MHI

MHI is an international trade association that has represented the material handling, logistics and supply chain industry since 1945. MHI members include material handling and logistics equipment and systems manufacturers, integrators, consultants, publishers and third-party logistics providers. MHI offers education, networking and solution sourcing for their members, their customers and the industry as a whole through programming and events. The association sponsors the ProMat and MODEX expos to showcase the products and services of its member companies and to educate manufacturing and supply chain professionals on the productivity solutions provided through material handling and logistics. MODEX 2018 is being held April 9-12 in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than 6,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to make an impact that matters — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.


Carol Miller, 704-714-8734
Vice President of Marketing and Communications

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New Report Cites Blockchain, Digital Workforce as Increasing Adoption of Next Generation Supply Chain Innovations

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Carol Miller, 704-714-8734
Vice President of Marketing and Communications