Need for Social Supply Chain
Around 12,000 BC humans started cultivating food on their own and learned the art of preserving the perishable foods like fruits and vegetables for long time beyond its life time by various techniques. In the later stages of human development, we found various natural methodologies like drying, heating, curing using salt, preserving using sugar, smoking etc. for preserving food. But these techniques could not scale beyond a point where the mass consumption of food started due to population explosion and due to the industrial revolution in 1820. With the invention of food processing machines, the need for food changed its scope from the basic essential item to an economic commodity.
From “The Wealth of Nations”, authored by Adam Smith, who is called the father of modern economics, it’s clear that future of every nation shall depend on the production and conservation of food that it produces. In modern world, the term conservation need to be clearly read as preservation. If we observe the movement of fruits and vegetables from farm to platter, we could see innumerable events that could be triggering the spoilage. In farm, a novice or experienced farmers are sometimes not sure when to sow. Consumption patterns varies from region to region and from season to season. Farmers need regular and periodic feedback from market, which gives them clear view about the consumption pattern of consumers. They could reap based on this feedbacks. Farmers need technological devices to get these data at the remote places far away from urban market. They need means and mode of transportation to get their products moved from farm to market. The means of transportation may not be easily available for farmers on demand.
Social transportation is an old idea, where a transportation mode is leased among farmers to transport goods. But then, are they jointly transporting right food to right location at right time? Few of the socialized farmers may need to split their goods into different trucks and move it to different market place. Where is the intelligence to decide on these factors? Sometimes they may need to delay their supply and transportation to market by days and week. Here, what are the preservation mechanism for the perishable foods? Who gives them these knowledge?
Isn’t time to think about new concept called “social”-supply chain, “social”-transportation, “social”-market place etc. in the modern economy? What is this “social”? If you imagine human population as a network with people (or organization) as nodes in that network, then to me “social” is a terminology that could be used, where there is lesser profit accumulation at any one node, where all nodes work with same efficiency and there is very less wastage at each node. We need to enable our information and technology to cater to this paradigm. Usage of modern and cheaper mobile devices, Open Sourced business logic that improves process efficiency, free network for the needed in the society, usages of IoT devices at various data collection points and free market access without paying hefty amounts to middle men are very necessary to realize this world.
Existing enterprise applications could play a major role in pushing this idea into the world. ERP software that cater to supply chain, must merge process and execution models with efficiency model. During 1980-2000, when the population and resources were not a major criteria for implementing industrial processes, it was affordable to follow efficient processes, even though sometimes it was slow. But time, economy and situations have changed. With exploding population and lesser natural resources, enterprise processes need to merge with efficiency factors in the process. These could be done by minimizing work flow processes, data entry processes and data analysis processes, procurement processes where human need to interact.
Humans must start considering use of electronic devices that could play data collector and data analyzer roles. IoT (Internet of Things) devices like “smart soil moisture monitor” for farm soil moisture detection, “smart water quality monitor” for large aquaculture farms, “smart flood and forest fire predictor” for farm land insurance, “cold chain monitor” for food life span prediction can change the way we produce and consume food. All these enterprises processes are currently part of different ERP systems; though the data from those devices are not attached. They are manually entered from few reliable sources and few from not so reliable systems. So there is always a scope of efficiency factor improvement for these processes through the above mentioned devices. Let learned machines play roles of efficient tasks masters and let mass data processing technologies (like SAP HANA, Hadoop, Spark etc.) play major roles of intelligent production and consumption pattern analyzers, to let human being reap the benefit of technology.