The age of the digital supply chain is here.

    How do we know? More than 1,000 industry leaders across manufacturing and distribution supply chains have said so in a survey that informed MHI’s sixth Annual Industry Report, “Elevating Supply Chain Digital Consciousness.”

    The report examines trends in current and planned investments in digital technologies like robotics and automation, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable and mobile devices, plus driverless vehicles and drones. It again confirms that digital innovations continue to fuel growing customer expectations and demand for better, faster, more transparent service. The report also affirms that companies who embrace a digital mindset reap the benefits of a supply chain that is agile, fully automated and self-learning.

    Respondents said their projected spending on digital technologies is up by 95%. That uptick, following four years of decline in planned investments, indicates a critical inflection point. Even so, not every company is advancing along the digital path at the same pace.

    The 2019 MHI Annual Industry Report defines four stages of digital adoption.

    Stage 1: Connectivity — Purchasing systems that enable digital connectivity: Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and storage, sensors and automatic identification, and blockchain/distributed ledger technologies. These allow organizations to harvest pertinent information all along the supply chain.

    Stage 2: Faster Execution — Adopting technologies that respond to data more quickly, sometimes automatically. Includes robotics and automation, wearable and mobile technology, autonomous vehicles and drones, and 3D printing systems.

    Stage 3: Advancing Analytics — Investments in predictive analytics and inventory/network optimization. With a degree of automation in place, analytics can be both forward-looking and prescriptive; that is, making recommendations for actions to take based on what’s likely to happen.

    Stage 4: Artificial intelligence (AI) — The apex of the digital adoption pyramid, AI takes analytics from Stage 3, runs millions of comparative calculations, determines the best course of action, and then acts immediately — without human intervention. Human cognition is freed from mundane activities to focus on the supply chain’s true challenges and exceptions.

    In conjunction with the report, MHI developed the Supply Chain Digital Consciousness Index (DCI), a self-assessment for benchmarking supply chain digital consciousness. The DCI quantifies an organization’s current level of digital awareness, while measuring progress toward the desired end-state. The intent is to identify and prioritize gaps in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for digital consciousness that meets each firm’s unique business goals. The Supply Chain DCI and report are available at

    As another step in improving your supply chain operations, I invite you to attend MODEX 2020. As the most comprehensive international manufacturing and supply chain expo held in the U.S. in 2020, MODEX’s 950 exhibitors will display the latest technologies and solutions that support digital supply chains across 325,000 square feet of show floor. As well, more than 150 educational conference sessions will be presented.

    MODEX will be held March 9-12, 2020 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. For more information or to register, please visit

    George Prest is CEO of MHI.