Management / 250 years of supply chain technology

250 years of supply chain technology

Technological advancements have changed the manufacturing and supply chain industry over the years. From the beginnings of the first industrial revolution to today’s “Industry 4.0”, the entire distribution and co-ordination of how goods are made has completely transformed.

The first industrial revolution

The first industrial revolution began in Great Britain in the late 1700s, when new manufacturing processes were put in place and the modern “manufactuary”, or factory, came of age. Developments of the time that contributed included the invention of the steam engine and machine tools, mechanised spinning (which led to the mass production of textiles) and the introduction of coalmining as an alternative fuel source to wood. Global trade started to flourish and the revolution soon spread to other countries.

The second industrial revolution

The second industrial revolution, also known as the technological revolution, began in the 1870s. This period saw the invention of the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile and the aeroplane. Electricity was now available in homes and large-scale factories for the mass-production of cars and other goods began to appear. The expansion of railways and roadways led to the opening up of further distribution channels.

The third industrial revolution

The third industrial revolution – the digital revolution – started in the second half of the 20th century. Electronics and information technology were used to automate processes in factories. Advancements in computing were made in from the 1940s onwards, and in 1968 IBM launched the world’s first commercial database management system.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 has seen the emergence of the smart factory. In a smart factory, sensors, the Internet of Things, big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence combine to help manufacturers optimise performance, and supply chains can track parts and understand when maintenance needs to be done on machinery.


As technology progresses it is likely blockchain will also become a big part of supply chains, giving them greater traceability and transparency. The technology can help reduce fraud and manufacturers will know exactly where the product comes from and decrease the need for paperwork, as the history of it will be contained on one electronic ledger system.


This article was published in our Business Reporter Online: Logistics laid bare.

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