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Achieving the Cognitive Supply Chain

Cardinal Health manages one of the largest medical supply chains in the world, supplying 90% of hospitals in the US and 29,000 pharmacies worldwide. And their idea for the future of the global supply chain is highly innovative.

Cardinal Health is the company behind the concept of the cognitive supply chain. What is the cognitive supply chain? It’s the combination of real-time data, machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to create an intelligent, self-learning system that facilitates the unencumbered flow of inventory throughout the supply chain. Cardinal Health is using cutting-edge technology with the goal of transcending the traditional limits of the enterprise supply chain.


I recently had the pleasure of joining Cardinal Health VP Supply Chain Josh Dolan and Sarah Barnes Humphrey of Let’s Talk Supply Chain for an exclusive webinar to talk about visibility, data quality and why FourKites’ data is the cornerstone for Cardinal’s bold vision for the future of smart supply chain technology.

What Is the Cognitive Supply Chain?

Our mission is to be healthcare’s most trusted partner. In order to be healthcare’s most trusted partner, you have to have a bar-raising supply chain that operates in good times and bad, at the highest levels possible. – Joshua Dolan, VP Global Logistics, Cardinal Health

We knew from the beginning of our partnership that Cardinal Health had a bold and ambitious vision for the future of digital supply chains. Cardinal’s vision is about much more than simply knowing where your trucks and shipments are at any given time. It’s about building a fully automated system that learns, grows and improves over time.

In Josh’s words, “the cognitive supply chain is a system that allows you to read and react to changes within the supply chain in real-time, and administer autonomous self-healing whenever issues occur.” Cardinal describes it as a “frictionless experience” for customers up and down the supply chain, from the original vendor or manufacturer all the way to the end-patient in need of care.

How Cognitive Supply Chains Can Improve Supply Chain Collaboration

Collaboration is the future of business, as the world becomes increasingly global and distributed workplaces are a reality. But while it’s easy to talk about improving collaboration, driving meaningful change can be a much more difficult proposition.

The first step toward improving supply chain collaboration is to start by breaking down data silos. The world runs on data, and the companies that are able to share information seamlessly across all levels of their organization will be the ones that operate most efficiently and respond with agility when disruptions occur.

Once you’ve gotten a critical mass of data into a single place, you can start to feed that data into neural networks and intelligent algorithms, which in turn allows you to act both predictively and proactively. The more data they have, the more value the cognitive supply chain can produce.

But it doesn’t stop there. Successful supply chains no longer reside within an organization’s own four walls. Now, they exist at all layers of the supply network, breeding collaboration and mutually beneficial interactions at all levels of the business, both upstream and down. To be truly successful, these approaches must extend beyond the company itself and into the broader supply network, consisting of vendors, suppliers, customers and transportation partners.

Leveraging Visibility to Change the Game

“The differentiator isn’t just in one solution. It’s the amalgamation of all available solutions to create something that’s very unique, very differentiating, and focused on that outcome of creating the highest-performing supply chain known to man.” – Joshua Dolan, VP Logistics, Cardinal Health

Cost, speed and reliability are the three pillars of supply chain management. Historically, companies have had to settle for just two of the three. But thanks to technologies like those being pioneered by Cardinal Health and FourKites today, it’s becoming easier than ever to achieve them all.

Cardinal Health’s story makes it clear that having great-quality data is a great start, but it’s only the beginning. Driving meaningful change within any organization means setting goals, assessing where you are, and taking clear, measurable actions across your business to help you reach those goals.

Supply chain visibility is now table stakes for those looking to push boundaries and leverage the supply chain as a competitive differentiator. For Cardinal Health, visibility is a building block for the self-learning, customer-centric healthcare ecosystem the company wants to build. After all, as Josh put it, “It’s really hard to collaborate when you can’t see what’s happening.”

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