According to Carlos Cordon, a professor at the IMD Business School in Switzerland, innovation can lead to surprising results. “Supply chain digitalization offers lots of benefits, but often not the ones we expected,” stated Cordon, who was one of the speakers at the inNOWvate Supply Chain Event held in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, on 22 May. Two of the benefits he mentioned were new technologies such as augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. Augmented reality is helping manufacturers to resolve technical breakdowns more quickly and shorten changeover times, for example, while autonomous vehicles can offer a solution to the driver shortage in the logistics sector.

Carlos Cordon (see photo): “Many supply chain innovations are traditionally focused on cost savings, but we’re done with reducing costs now. The true value of innovations often lies in other aspects such as speed, flexibility or addressing the driver shortage. In view of all those innovations, these are exciting times for supply chain professionals.”

Driver of innovation

Start-ups are a key driver of innovation in the supply chain, according to Supply Chain Media’s Martijn Lofvers who chaired the one-day event. He mentioned Boyan Slat from Ocean Clean-up, whose first attempt to remove the ‘plastic soup’ in the sea failed. “But he will try again, because that’s how innovation works – through trial and error. And we really need innovation. Within today’s companies, Supply Chain is the only department that can save the world.”

To stimulate supply chain innovation, Supply Chain Media recently held the second edition of its European Supply Chain Start-up Contest, once again to tie in with the inNOWvate Supply Chain Event. A total of 28 start-ups and scale-ups entered the competition this year. The finalists in the start-up category were Ambrosus, MotionMiners, Stockspots, Shipnext and Circular IQ, which was ultimately named as the winner.

Circular IQ has developed a software tool that enables customers to gather data about products and materials as the basis for deeper insights. Clients such as DSM, Brink, Bolsius, Gispen and Van Wijnen are already using the company’s software to allocate €400 million worth of purchasing volume between them. As a result, they are not only saving 800 tonnes of COemissions but also €8 million in costs.

Seven Senders best scale-up

The award for the best scale-up – a company that has outgrown the start-up phase and has amassed more than €2 million in capital – was won by Seven Senders, which was chosen over fellow finalists Buyco, Cargonexx, Everoad and Fretlink. Seven Senders develops software that enables companies to find the optimal last-mile solution for every consignment.