By Doug Kelly, CEO of the American Edge Project
Tired of struggling to find goods and services, or paying exorbitant prices once you finally locate them? The solution might lie in advanced technology – but only if policymakers in Washington don’t impede progress.
In the past few years, the United States has been hit with a series of supply chain shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These events emptied store shelves, hiked prices, and caused chaos for businesses and families alike. To prepare for inevitable future shocks, leaders in both the private and public sectors are reimagining supply chains to be more localized, connected, and resilient.
Advanced technology is a critical component for turbocharging our supply chain, which employs 44 million people (37 percent of all U.S. jobs) and has a value of $1.56 trillion. In fact, SupplyChain magazine recently highlighted ten technologies that are transforming supply chains. These include:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI/ML touches every part of supply chain management – procurement, manufacturing, fulfilment, logistics, inventory, and more. Increased use of AI will help slash costs, improve efficiencies, and quickly analyze billions of pieces of information to identify break-through new processes and insights. By adopting and fully incorporating these technologies, manufacturers can enhance their competitiveness and create more jobs.
- Autonomous vehicles (AV): Self-driving trucks and drones optimize routes, improve delivery times, and reduce costs. By using autonomous vehicles, manufacturers can create more job opportunities through increased demand for products and services, as well as reducing fuel consumption as more AV fleets become electric.
- Augmented (AR)/virtual reality (VR): AR/VR can be used to visualize and simulate complex supply chain operations, allowing for better decision-making and error reduction. It can also provide remote real-time assistance to workers, help them to learn in more immersive ways, and improve maintenance and repair support by allowing workers to simulate repairs before actually carrying them out.
- 5G: Faster and reliable connectivity with 5G helps improve communication and collaboration across the supply chain. By using 5G-enabled smart sensors, manufacturers can track their supply chain more accurately, lowering costs and improving customer experience.
Other critical supply chain technologies include blockchain (securely track goods), 3D printing (on-demand supply creation), data and analytics (insights), and cloud computing (store/process large volumes of data).
Leading the development of these technologies are America’s most innovative companies. They have invested tens of billions of dollars to bring these technologies to market and are engaged in fierce competition with companies from China, German, Japan, and South Korea, all of which seek to capture greater global market share in supply chain technologies.
Unfortunately, some short-sighted policymakers in Washington are already seeking to heavily regulate some of these critical technologies, even in their earliest stages. The FTC is reportedly monitoring competition in the AI market (where dozens of startups are racing to develop and launch new AI tools) and the agency has already launched inquiries into cloud computing and AR/VR companies. Congress is also looking to regulate AI and other important technologies. Instead, policymakers should focus on investing in skilled labor and a pipeline of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent, which is concentrated in supply chain industries.
Supply chains are the unsung hero of commerce, the backbone of industry, and the beating heart of global trade. Without robust supply chains, businesses crumble, economies stagnate, and families pay more and get less. Misguided policies could stunt the growth of these innovations and put us behind in the global tech race. Policymakers need to get this right and allow advanced technological innovations to turbocharge our supply chains so that American businesses and consumers win.
Doug Kelly is the CEO of the American Edge Project, a coalition of nearly two dozen organizations dedicated to advancing and protecting American technology and innovation.