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September 14, 2021updated 30 Jun 2022 11:08am

Cloud providers see big opportunity in digital supply chain management

Google Cloud has released new digital twin supply chain management products, reflecting growing demand from businesses for digital tools to manage suppliers.

By Matthew Gooding

Google Cloud has launched a new service that will allow its customers to build a digital twin of their supply chains. The management of suppliers is an increasingly crucial issue for many businesses, and Google is hoping to make up ground on cloud rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, both of which already offer similar products.

Supply Chain Twin, which was launched today, lets companies build a digital twin – a virtual representation of their physical supply chain – by bringing data from disparate sources into one place and modelling their entire supply chain. Google says this will allow customers “to get a more complete view of suppliers, inventories, and other information.” A supporting module, Supply Chain Pulse, provides real-time dashboards, advanced analytics, and flags up potential problems.

Google Cloud supply chain

Supply chain problems have shut down car factories and left supermarkets with empty shelves in recent months. (Photo by Orlowski Designs LLC/Shutterstock)

Google claims the new services enable much faster analysis of supply chain data, with processes that previously took over two hours now being carried out by its customers in a matter of minutes.

Supply chain problems and digital transformation

Supply chains in industries around the world have come under strain during the past 18 months due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. For businesses in the UK, these problems have been exacerbated by the impact of Brexit. On Tuesday the government announced that the introduction of additional checks on goods coming into the UK was being delayed until January 2022 to give businesses more time to prepare, citing the supply chain issues which have left shelves empty in many supermarkets.

The automotive industry has also been hit hard by supply chain issues relating to the global chip shortage, which has led to factories around the world closing their doors because of a lack of crucial semiconductors. Google says French automaker Renault is one of the first businesses to deploy the new tools.

These ongoing problems mean having complete visibility of supply chains is more important than ever, with companies keen to identify and avoid bottlenecks. Nick McQuire, chief of enterprise research at analyst firm CCS Insight, says the cloud providers are keen to exploit this. The new modules are “a boost to Google Cloud’s credentials in this key area,” he tells Tech Monitor.

McQuire says the launch of this product will be particularly welcomed by retailers and is “part of Google Cloud’s long-standing strategy of moving deeper into industries,” which has seen the cloud provider and its rivals developing specific solutions to market to clients in heavily regulated sectors such as financial services and healthcare. “The provider is naturally strong in the retail segment, where it poses as a rival to AWS which of course promotes its similar expertise due to its parent company, Amazon,” he adds.

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Google Cloud, supply chains and digital twins

Digital twins are becoming increasingly popular as a way for businesses to simulate various aspects of their work. Juniper Research estimates that global digital twin spend will reach $12.7bn this year, up 17% from $10.9bn in 2019.

When it comes to digital twins in supply chain management, Google Cloud is playing catch-up with rivals Microsoft Azure and AWS. Microsoft brought out its digital twin offering, Azure Digital Twin, last December, which allows businesses to build a virtual model of their supply chains, while AWS has a range of supply chain and digital twin options.

“Other [companies] have been focusing on the supply chain and digital twin opportunities for longer, most notably Microsoft,” says McQuire. “It is often the top choice cloud provider with industrial manufacturers and logistics firms, so has been preparing for this opportunity for several years now.”

He adds: “The move [from Google] certainly illustrates that it’s all to play for in a vital segment of the global economy that is under tremendous strain and transformation at the moment,”

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