Revolutionary impact of nanotechnology in the future of SCM

Few would have accurately forecast innovations such as of the Internet, wireless communications or the mapping of the Human Genome. Predictions about nanotechnology have fueled the imagination. Much of this is still imagination but the future looks promising. Nanotechnology is a fundamental design science, yet to emerge, mostly theoretical today, which may well provide us with the tools to engineer inorganic and organic matter at the atomic level. Nanotechnology, if even partially realized, over the next few decades has the potential to realign society, change business and affect economics at the structural level. New business models, design tools, and manufacturing strategies may emerge at price points much reduced and highly efficient. Nanotechnology will touch all aspects of economics: wages, employment, purchasing, pricing, exchange rates, currencies, markets, and off course, key supply chain management aspects.

David Kiger explains that if developments in nanotechnology reach a critical mass in supplying radically innovative breakthroughs in automated self-assembly, as one example, most vertical industries will be influenced. We must learn to ask the questions now about how nanotechnology may change our choices, affect our lifestyles, shape our careers, influence our communities – we must ask now and prepare so we may examine the implications that may shape the future we will live in together. In a world being reshaped daily by innovations, the absurd today is reality tomorrow. But with the intimate inter-linkage of markets, industries, and economies radical breakthrough technologies will have a widespread and far-reaching impact, both positive and negative. The risks in not preparing for and examining the economic and business impact are too large to ignore.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. In its original sense, ‘nanotechnology’ refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high-performance products. It has the potential to be applied to practically any application or technology. As a business venture, there is a shortage of literary works that focus on supply chain management practices (SCM) using nanotechnology. A survey was conducted among a random population of nanotechnology-related companies to understand the general adoption of SCM by nanotechnology, and the study indicated the highly customer-centric nature of the nanotechnology industry. The primary focus of the industry is centered on on-time delivery, quality, customer satisfaction, and supplier performance. Nanotechnology is improving the vehicles used to transport, and the computers that keep track of the logistics, but it is also improving other aspects of the SCM.

Nanotechnology in food packaging and food safety

The core supply chain management issues involve choosing the right product, case, and pallet sizes in a manner that will help increase product sales while lowering inventory, transportation, and packaging costs. In the packaging step of the supply chain, nanotechnology is used to create materials applied in food packaging, like polymer-clay Nanocomposites, as high barrier packaging materials, silver nanoparticles as potent antimicrobial agents, and Nanosensors and nanomaterial-based assays for the detection of food-relevant gas, small organic molecules, and food-borne pathogens.

Companies spend vast resources in supply chain management to design, plan, execute, control, and monitor activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally. The unique hazards and the rapid development of new information about the toxicity of the Nanomaterials mean that your supply chain will look to you for information on how to safely handle them. And you want to make certain that worker health and safety issues in your supply chain don’t disrupt the business flow.

Energy Storage Research_david kiger_supply chain management_nanotechnology
Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory at Flickr.com

Nanotechnology in the improvement of batteries and energy storage

Improving batteries’ performance is key to the development and success of many much-hyped energy storage technologies, from solar and wind energy to electric cars. They need to hold more energy, last longer, be cheaper and safer.

Research into how to achieve that has followed several avenues, from using different materials than the existing lithium-ion batteries to changing the internal structure of batteries using nanoparticles, with parts so small they are invisible to the naked eye. Nanotechnology can increase the size and surface of batteries electrodes, the rods inside the batteries that absorb the energy. It does so by effectively making the electrodes sponge-like so that they can absorb more energy during charging and ultimately increasing the energy storage capacity. With prototypes undergoing successful testing, nanotechnology hopes to have the three-dimensional electrode battery on the market very soon. In combination with an internal cooling system the batteries, which are being tested now, should be safe from overheating or exploding, a major concern with existing technologies. More efficient batteries are crucial if cars are to increase their driving range, which is currently limited compared with what fossil fuels can provide. In renewable energy, powerful batteries are needed to store the energy created by solar panels or wind farms, which gets dispersed when it is sent for long distances.

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