With the first quarter of 2017 coming to an end, it is now possible to analyze whether the predictions and the lessons of the past year will continue their subsequent consolidation. The apparent anti-trade rhetoric supported by different movements whose political affiliations later went on to enthrone Trump and the Brexit, as well as a much higher sense of protectionism have gained a considerable amount of supporters, leaving the supply chain management industry amidst the fog of unpredictability.
The present year has already started to shift towards new challenges in regards to supply chains and ways of working —expert David Kiger addressed in a previous article the new technologies and developments that have started to come to the light; however, it is nonetheless important to point out that as 2017 keeps unraveling its mysteries, the changes will likely continue to happen.
Aside from the aforementioned trends, there are some other tendencies that are growing in both numbers and importance. The “clean” movement, for instance, has been entirely seizing the momentum gained during past years —with the emergence of social media, many people have identified themselves with this particular view and have resorted to voicing their opinions across the different social media platforms demanding that companies have a sustainable supply chain process. This scenario has been compelling enough for companies to listen carefully, given the fact that a vast portion of today’s consumers are leaning towards consuming less processed products. Financials goals aside, businesses that listen to their consumers will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to achieving short-term and long-term goals while being sustainable at the same time.
The ultimate result ended up coercing companies to act in the betterment of their supply chains, making their processes leaner and more environmentally friendly. The textile industry, just to mention an example, is now forcing suppliers to avoid the use of oil and petroleum-based materials in hopes of reducing chemical and potentially dangerous waste.
The ongoing rise of Blockchain
The eclosion of blockchain exceeded all kinds of possible expectations around it. With a minor presence during the majority of 2016, the technology behind cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin is here to stay; however, its full scope spans beyond financial services. After financial services, the supply chain is the perfect field for technological applications. Blockchain technology will surely be adopted by supply chains as a way to provide a deeper degree of trust, ensuring transparency —for it will be possible to provide goods with information about its origins.
Third Party Logistics
Given the complexity of today’s juncture, there is a considerable amount of problems that could indeed affect shipments and established routes, causing, in the majority of cases, stock shortage. To overcome the odds of falling victim of such scenario, many companies are now fondly considering leaning towards third party logistics (3PL), which is why its use will definitely grow in importance as the year continues its progress. The whole idea behind this is to allow companies to avoid the risk commonly associated with technology —third party logistics providers enable companies to access a much more responsive, technologically based logistic networks, which will definitely be necessary to overcome the challenges in the coming years.
The perks of near-shoring
As mentioned by president Donald Trump and other British executives, the tendency towards protectionism is becoming increasingly popular. Increasing tariffs on imported goods coming from overseas will end up pushing companies to embrace near-shoring. They will now be forced to transfer their goods and products from production facilities to a much closer territory near the final market. Near-shoring has had a steady growth throughout the years and has become a feasible solution to the likes of the aforementioned issue. Such landscape suggests that there will be a significant increase in near-shoring activities, mostly in the United Stated and Western Europe, as a way to meet current market demands and avoid incurring into taxation issues.
Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Although mentioned before, it is a fact that both automation and artificial intelligence have been a game-changer issue. During the past year, 2016, predictions foresaw an unexpected increase in machine automation in supply chain processes. Such prediction is slowly becoming a reality and now, from factories to facilities, all across the different supply chains, automation and artificial intelligence have taken over up to 50% of the processes involved, after having been destined to robots. Besides, their perks cannot only be found in the manufacturing processes. Alongside the internet of things, artificial intelligence will enable companies to develop algorithms to analyze and assess the data coming from the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing them to come up with the most accurate idea around processes execution, thusly saving time, costs, preventing future accidents and meeting customer and market demands.
* Featured Image courtesy of Missy Schmidt at Flickr.com