Expert Predictions for the Future of Supply Chain Management

Robert Brice
Wed, Nov 2, 2016
Understanding future supply chain trends sets businesses up for success.
Understanding future supply chain trends sets businesses up for success.

Nothing in the business world stays the same forever. Even in periods of relative quiet, there are small changes that add up and eventually push workflows, processes, equipment and other critical assets into their next, more advanced iteration. The supply chain, as a concept in general and in practice for individual businesses and markets, isn't immune to these developments. Advances from the development of codified supply chain management principles in the 1980s to modern-day use of mobile devices for automated data collection have improved the way businesses receive and deliver raw materials, supplies and finished products.

Let's consider some of the future developments in the supply chain world predicted by insiders, analysts and experts:

Putting the Right People in the Right Places
Writing for Forbes, supply chain specialist Kevin O'Mara​h said a significant shift in the way businesses staff their supply chain positions is coming. He believes more attention and opportunities need to be given to staff who display qualities like analytical intuition and strong problem-solving skills. One way to achieve this change in positioning personnel and realize the intended benefits is increased autonomy and freedom within some prescribed limits. This involves giving these employees room to think and work through current processes in an attempt to devise new, more efficient ones.

O'Mara​h said valuable staff members who should engage in more thought-provoking and substantial work to develop long-term benefits for their organizations are instead weighed down by procedural concerns. This stumbling block limits achievements and can focus too much attention on areas where the expertise and intuition of valuable staff isn't needed, whether it's due to automation taking care of potential issues or a successful plan limiting the need for additional involvement.

An added benefit of allowing these valuable employees to engage in more work oriented around critical thinking is it eventually makes it easier for business to identify others who can fill these important roles. Current workers see how these leaders function on a day-to-day basis, and applicants for positions will notice the attractive duties of such positions spelled out in job postings.

Digital Supply Chains and Customer-Facing Concerns
Digitization of the supply chain isn't an entirely unknown or particularly new concept, but it's one that's gaining in recognition and popularity. The impact of digital supply chains was brought up by Supply Chain Digital, which referenced recent research conducted by The Center for Global Enterprise and CREATe.org. Supply Chain Digital said one of the most important findings to come out of the data was an agreement by the managers and leaders of some of the world's largest supply chains about future opportunities for growth. These worldwide leaders in the field believe a stronger focus on customers and generating demand will become more prevalent in the coming years.

How does a focus on the customer-facing side of the supply chain tie into digital supply chains? By focusing on introducing connected digital systems, automation and regular analysis of current practices, businesses can realize more efficient operations and create leaner, more successful workflows. Those improvements are impressive to say the least. According to the research conducted by CGE and CREATe.org, digital supply chains can mean savings of as much as 50 percent for supply chain costs and 20 percent for procurement costs. Similarly, revenue could increase by as much as 10 percent with the right approach to streamlining and increasing efficiency. 

With these improvements realized, businesses can focus more attention and resources on the demand side of the supply chain. Such an approach means the benefits of these positive changes aren't lost. Instead, they're reinvested at least in part into the supply chain, ensuring continued development on the right path.

Making the Changes Your Supply Chain Needs to Remain Successful
Every business is different and every supply chain has unique considerations to keep in mind before massive changes occur. Latching onto a trend too soon or without the due diligence to determine its viability with a specific company's current or future practices is a recipe for increased problems and muted results. Understanding these two trends in a broad sense and determining which elements should be incorporated soon and which can wait or even be set aside entirely are vital components when it comes to benefiting from future-based analysis.

On the other side of the issue, some elements of these strategies are ubiquitous, helpful and applicable enough where nearly any business will benefit from them. Increasingly digital and automated supply chains are one such factor - their benefits are already proven and are flexible enough to apply to the supply chains of a wide range of businesses and industries. To learn more about one particularly effective element of digitization and automation, read our white paper, "8 Signs You Need an Automated Data Collection Solution."

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