The Outlook of Supply Chain: Future Trends to look for in 2021

Illustration by Maxime Bourgeois via Dribbble

In this modern world, everything is revolving around technology. IT companies are still doing well even in the phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Covid also forces the supply chains to change speedily. Digitalization is the main key that enables this transformation.

You will be glad to know that the transformation & digitalization of supply chains has been an ongoing evolution for many years. COVID-19 basically acts as a reactant for accelerating the change. In addition, the Supply chain leaders should also adapt the new technologies to go forward smoothly with the ever-changing environment in which they are functioning.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put the global supply chain networks in the fame. You can say that it helps to highlight their weaknesses & flaws. Moreover, although the supply chain profession also received more recognition from CEOs & the C-suite than before.

Therefore, the supply chain leaders are now challenged to use their attention to modernize their digitalization plans along with preparing their supply chains for any future disruptions.

In today’s world, the companies are more focused on maintaining the flow of goods than ever, ranging from essential products to any kind of fitness equipment. Indeed, most people nowadays rely on supply chain managers in order to make their products & supplies available for those demanding it in the industry.

The year 2020 taught us many things wherein the basic this which comes in the limelight is that supply chains needed to be more responsive & resilient. They should target increasing their interconnectivity between the external ecosystems as well as internal processes.

By making the investments in the field of AI, cloud & automation, it allows for quicker responses from enterprises in order to handle the disruptive environments & conditions.

Smarter supply chains will give a better understanding of demand signals & quick changes based on several factors such as current consumer behavior along with the seasonal surges. In addition to this, they must remain tuned-in to patterns & changes in stock-keeping units to better handle the risk and prevent unnecessary shortages.

List of some trends for the Supply chain leaders to look toward the future to proceed

Nowadays, supply chain leaders look toward the future; to proceed, they must consider the following trends. It will surely help bring the power responsiveness & flexibility, so they are prepared in a better way for future disruptions:

#1. Keep in mind the customized customer experiences

Nowadays, most consumers usually expect to be able to order what they exactly want, from wherever they want and when they want in a hyper-personalized way. These types of buying experiences have rapidly become the norm, & additionally, supply chains need to deliver differentiation via radical consumer customization.

#2. Self-learning Functions

The upcoming generation approach is to plan the uses of AI capabilities to sense as well as respond to change, maintain continuity between disruptions, advance the continuous collaboration with external partners & shift from demand response to its predictive demand creation.

#3. Adapt the Agile operating models

The operating models which offer near-instant insights in order to support an organization’s workforce, ecosystems & fluid work unit teams are essential.

#4. Transparent & ethical networks

Many Blockchain technologies may enable cross-industry, multi-enterprise networks in order to provide shared visibility into trusted data which drives better insights & decisions.

Furthermore, once connected with the supply chain, Blockchain networks may also remove transactional blind spots between the partners, thus reduce order errors and enhance dispute resolution.

#5. There must be dynamic computing configurations

Hybrid cloud, platform & edge environments can offer responsive data insights. It also helps to provide the added layer of security, which is really important.

#6. Technology is a significant complement to supply chain teams

With the rapid development of technology, it is blowing the minds of many people worldwide. However, it actually goes hand-in-hand with the future of SCM (supply chain management).

Whether allowing the supply chain teams to enhance or adding to their current processes in some way, the all-new created tools & technology are all necessary for survival in this modern world. Moreover, the use of autonomous mobile robots likely has been adopted by several companies in the next few years to come. By adopting the technology, companies will be able to automate & streamline picking as well as packing processes.

But it does not mean that robotic technology will take over specific processes along with the supply chain. In the future, there will still a need for supply chain teams to have a hands-on approach to several processes.

As we are moving into 2020, the supply chain teams need to understand the exact importance of incorporating technology into their operations that is not being intimidated by it.

#7. IoT makes the warehouses smart

Nowadays, we are bound to using several various tools & technologies that are used by supply chain teams become increasingly integrated. By overlapping with other services, it does not necessarily mean they should be competing against each other.

The supply chain technology will become not only integrated with other such tools but will also become specialized. Supply chain team leaders that adopt exclusive integrated & specialized technologies are moving forward. Then, it will almost certainly stir a massive growth in productivity throughout the processes.

#8. Enhanced relationships with suppliers

To frame solid and mutually beneficial relationships with their suppliers, supply chains will be looking for:

  • Establish & maintain clear lines of communication
  • Collaborate to further both companies’ missions

The communication, teams need to make sure their suppliers are private to the information, which may affect their processes in any way automatically.

#9. Pre-fulfillment speed becomes Critical Part

The more efficient a company’s pre-fulfillment processes, the quicker the customer will be able to receive their order. In other words, you can say that no matter how streamlined a team’s fulfillment processes can be, it will all be worthless if it is the supply chain to standard.

Nike can capitalize on trends & events by developing new product iterations & bringing them to market almost as the event in question unfolds.

#10. Inventory flow optimization

Inventory is somewhat a strange thing. Having too much of it indicates that you are wasting a ton of capital on rent, maintenance, & other costs which are associated with the storage space. Less storage space, of course, means that the current inventory is going unsold, and you have no room for items that might be superior for the business.

The main key is to have just a sufficient amount of inventory space so that there will be no need to hinder the ability to fulfill the customers’ needs. This is how visibility with regard to inventory-related data is increasingly valuable to the modern supply chain teams.

Indeed, digitalization for its own sake is not at all enough. All the supply chain leaders also must use new latest technologies in order to adapt to the developing and changing environment in which they are operating.

A highly disruptive geopolitical landscape & the supply chain’s role in the organization’s sustainability efforts call for advanced strategies & mindsets.

The future of supply chain- balance resilience vs. cost containment

Nowadays, the top priorities for companies are to improvise the supply chains’ resilience & agility in meeting the customer needs. Simultaneously, the pressure to contain costs is not going away as customers demand competitive pricing & CEOs watch their margins.

Most of the supply chain executives usually agree that their supply chains were mainly designed for cost-efficiency. So, the challenge arises for the supply chain leaders and their organizations, to find a new trade-off between cost, speed & service in a changing landscape where uncertainty & higher customer expectations go smoothly.

Being purpose-driven is not just about no harm to the stakeholders, but it also positively amplifies the advantages. The level of integration, regulatory burden of moving the already established supply chains to other location & the concentration of critical suppliers in specific geographies makes it challenging to regionalize a supply chain network.

In addition, the high labor costs & a shortage of skilled manufacturing workers have been an argument against domestic production in the well-developed Western economies.

Moreover, the automation technologies like artificial intelligence & robotic process automation offer excellent opportunities to resolve this constraint. Around 56% percent of survey respondents think that automation will enable them to make onshore manufacturing economically viable. This is because those latest technologies can be used on the functional and operational levels.

The Future of The Supply Chain Is Also Associated as Purpose-driven

Being beneficial is not enough when faced with the existential environmental leaving an impact on stakeholder groups through the value chain. The organizations which led through the supply chains need to indicate the purpose by showing that the stakeholder benefit is a top priority.

Being purpose-driven is also positively amplifying the advantages. For several organizations, the most vital end-to-end environmental impacts arise from the supply chains. This is the only reason why environmental performance efficiency has become a goal for various supply chain leaders.

In addition to this, the Supply chain leaders need data from their digital ecological community, that includes customer experience, carbon footprint, and the health and wealth of local supply communities. Again, in this aspect, digitalization helps. A digital partner ecosystem that is powered by technologies like blockchain and IoT will foster collaboration, enhance visibility & support better risk management.

Final Words

In the coming years, approx. 80% of organizations are now planning to develop the capabilities for a digital ecosystem. Though it seems to be very ambitious in order to achieve in such a short time, it shows the importance of digitally connecting with the ecosystem to support the critical future supply chain strategies such as resilience, agility & purpose-driven organizations. The ultimate aim is to improve the customer experience.

About the Author!

Liza Kosh is a senior content developer and a blogger who loves to share her views on diverse topics. She is currently associated with Seasia Infotech, a software development company. She holds great knowledge and experience in technical and creative writing.

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