Technology - 5 Technologies Changing Supply ChainsWith advances in technology influencing supply chains in a large variety of ways, it’s worth knowing just what those technologies are and how they are generating change. 

Business fields of all kinds are in the midst of a great transformation driven primarily by technology. As such, technological innovations are coming fast and heavy and companies are having to adapt to them at a rapid pace to keep up. It’s no different for supply chain companies. Technological advancements are reshaping the way supply chains operate. With that being the case, it’s critical that companies keep track of them in order to stay competitive.

A McKinsey article pointed this out, stating,

For all the effort that companies devote to improving the performance of their supply chains, relatively few have unlocked the full potential of digital technologies.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics pinpoints 5 technologies that are having a significant impact on supply chains today.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is perhaps the most talked about technological innovation in supply chains and elsewhere. And for good reason. It is having an impact on supply chains in a variety of ways already and that impact is set to grow. It can be used for forecasting internally and externally.

This means AI can track the state of inventory, the health of machinery, have the latest information about weather patterns or conditions, and much more. Moreover, in a time when data and the insights that can be gleaned from it are paramount, AI can analyze that data and provide precise recommendations based off it.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is soon to be responsible for over a trillion dollars in spending annually around the world. In turn, as devices that can connect to the internet grow more developed, the need for them by businesses will also grow. With that said, in the world of supply chains, IoT is making its presence felt. It can link operations, assist the effectiveness of automated processes, and make real-time tracking of products easier.

Thus, whether it be live security cameras or real-time trackers on merchandise, IoT has a lot to offer supply chains. Through IoT, supply chains have the potential to be more transparent and encourage stronger relationships between businesses and clients.

Blockchain

Blockchain technology, with each passing year, becomes more inextricably linked to supply chains. There are several reasons for this. For one, blockchain meets the strong demand for transparency in supply chains. By being able to follow the product on its journey through the supply chain and validate its movement each step of the way, blockchain ensures clarity to the process.

Additionally, blockchain also affords supply chains security, as it has no central authority, has immutable data, and allows for real-time tracking. Finally, blockchain also helps drive down costs since it gets rid of middlemen and speeds up product movement.

Cloud

Cloud-based supply chains are proving to have a number of advantages over traditional supply chains. Firstly, they make supply chains more efficient by making the most out of automation and data, reducing waste. Second of all, clouds allow for seamless scalability, avoiding the headache of antiquated operational expansions. In addition to that, scalability also means supply chains become more cost-effective as they grow. Since the expansions themselves no longer add costs.

5G

The incredible increase in internet speed 5G is set to bring with it will enhance supply chains considerably. Consequentially, all the previous technologies mentioned here are dependent to some degree or another on the internet. Furthermore, in many cases, such as with real-time tracking and visibility or data collection, faster internet means better performance. Thus, rather simply, 5G will be a big leap forward for supply chain companies, as it will allow them to achieve many of the outcomes they want faster and more effectively.

Supply Chain - Overcoming Extreme Weather

A critical component of supply chain management is planning around risks that can compromise the chain, and few risks are more disruptive than extreme weather.

In a time when the ill-effects of climate change are being felt around the world more than ever, supply chains have to mitigate for those effects to function year-round. Of course, what makes extreme weather so troublesome for supply chains is that it’s unpredictable and can come in many forms. With each form—flooding, storms, freezing temperatures, etc.—coming with its own host of problems. It’s imperative then that supply chain managers help form their chains with the possibility of extreme weather in mind and plan accordingly.

Resilinc spoke about this and the importance of planning around disruptive weather in their blog,

Bad weather tests the agility and resiliency of even the best supply chains. However, companies that manage weather-related disruptions as part of their event-monitoring best practices and supply chain risk management strategies tend to fare better than those that don’t take preventative measures, Resilinc’s work with customers shows.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights some of the key ways that supply chains can navigate the risks of extreme weather.

Have a Back-up Plan

At times the weather event that hits a supply chain will be too great to overcome. No amount of resilience can overcome a hurricane, for instance. This is when it’s crucial to have an additional plan in reserve. So, in practice this could look like a warehouse being impacted by bad weather. And, in response, those in charge of the supply chain having some spare carriers ready at another warehouse (at a separate location) with the same product.

While this is an additional cost, considering the physical and reputational damage bad weather can inflict, it’s a necessary one. Not only that, but, in the long run, a potentially cost-saving measure too.

Embrace Technology

There’s a variety of technology that helps supply chains work around or anticipate extreme weather. Foremost amongst this technology is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning. Via machine learning supply chain companies can gain access to data regarding internal and external risks, including weather.

This means having the latest information about the weather as well as the most precise predictions possible regarding it. Thus, through this technology supply chain companies can potentially avoid extreme weather by anticipating it. Or, at the very least, they can start planning for the weather as soon as possible.

Flexibility

A supply chain needs the ability to maneuver whatever comes its way. This is true in general but especially so with extreme weather. There will be instances where the weather isn’t so bad that the supply chain is completely brought to a halt. Rather, more often than not, the weather will require supply chain adaptations to still function. These can be as simple as taking a slightly altered route.

This point was emphasized in a Supply Chain 24/7 article about El Niño,

The key to riding out a situation like El Niño is to have a supply chain that is flexible enough to adapt. With an efficient and accurate inventory process, you’ll know what must be shipped by air and what can wait the extra week to arrive via ocean.

Robust Infrastrucure

Even with great technology, planning, and flexibility, each facet of a supply chain needs to be strong enough to deal with harsh weather conditions to some extent. For example, a supply chain’s warehouse should be able to withstand strong wind without being breached. Or, its production facility should have a variety flood-proof installations so that a flood has minimal impact upon it. In turn, when the products are being transported they might need to be temperature controlled. All in all, each step of a supply chain needs to have resiliency. So it can handle whatever weather conditions it might face.

5 Supply Chain Trends to Watch Out For

With supply chain companies having to continually respond to the needs of their respective markets, it’s critical that they stay cognizant of the many structural and operational advances being made in order to remain competitive.

Customers’ expectations about what supply chains should look like in terms of responsivity, transparency, and flexibility are greater than ever. As a result, supply chains are evolving faster than ever to meet and surpass those expectations. In turn, this evolution means monumental changes to the technology, management, and operations of supply chains.

Globecon Freight pointed out the scale of these changes in an article earlier this year,

Supply chain management is undergoing a significant transition that will change the face of shipping and logistics.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics identifies 5 prominent trends taking place and set to take place in the world of supply chains.

Digital Transformation

The need for supply chain operations to be digitized is stronger than ever and will only grow going forward. If supply chains are going to take advantage of the many technological innovations today and in the coming years, they need the infrastructure for it. That means making their operations digital. By undergoing a digital transformation, supply chain companies can lay the groundwork to make their technological progress iterative, not singular. Technology will keep advancing and it’s crucial supply chains keep abreast of it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

Both AI and automation are set to greatly boost efficiency, lower costs, and drive profitability in supply chains. They can work individually or hand-in-hand to improve a range of supply chain processes. These include (but aren’t limited to) warehouse management, forecasting, data collection, equipment maintenance, and waste reduction. AI and automation are only going to become even more powerful, adaptable, and precise in the future. Thus, it’s inevitable that their presence will only grow in supply chains.

Transparency

More than ever before, customers expect to know the state of their product from beginning to end. This means that supply chain companies need to ensure that their chains are as transparent as possible. This is set to be achieved in a variety of ways, including blockchain, transparency mapping, tracking materials, and third-party certification. Blockchain in particular is primed to play a major role in supply chains going forward, as it is a database that’s data cannot be altered. Moreover, the data that’s entered in a supply chain blockchain needs to be verified by everyone in it.

Real-Time Tracking

Building off the demand for transparency but also the continual need to be able to check on the integrity of a supply chain is the advent of real-time tracking apps and devices. These can be wearable devices that employees wear, helping them with a variety of tasks that are then instantly available for review. For example, a warehouse employee can use a device to input data regarding inventory. This data in turn can be viewed by the inventory manager. Additionally, apps can be made available for customers and those overseeing the supply chain, so they can see the data being collected along it to make sure it’s proceeding smoothly.

Customer-Specific Supply Chains

A generic, one size fits all supply chain is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Supply chains are growing increasingly segmented for the sake of customers. In order for customer needs to be met more precisely than before, supply chain companies are recognizing that each supply chain should be uniquely geared to them. In practice, that means dealing with customers directly (a direct-to-customer approach). It also means setting up supply chains to be pliable enough to proactively respond to customer interests.

Supply Chain - Digital Transformation

If supply chain companies are going to evolve to meet the demands of the market, digital transformation has to be central to that evolution. 

Now, more than ever, supply chains are being pushed to grow as a result of the needs of customers. And, no matter how well run a supply chain is, by itself it simply can’t meet those needs. Not without the aid of technology. In turn, there’s no greater way to technologically integrate and streamline an operation than digital transformation.

The numbers bear this out. A McKinsey study showed,

That, on average, companies that aggressively digitize their supply chains can expect to boost annual growth of earnings before interest and taxes by 3.2 percent—the largest increase from digitizing any business area—and annual revenue growth by 2.3 percent.

If they digitally integrate properly, supply chains should see improvements in the following areas, just to name a few:

  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Decision-making
  • Communication

This week’s article by Morai Logistics underscores the importance of digital transformation for supply chains. Pointing to some of the most relevant areas of improvement digital tools will bring and how.

Speed

There are a multitude of reasons why digitization should improve the speed of a supply chain. Automation by itself should greatly enhance supply chain speed by conducting repetitive tasks like data collection without human error. Additionally, machine learning can greatly help with predictions that are central to supply chains running smoothly. 

These predictions can involve data within a company, such as the health of machinery so that it can be fixed or replaced before it disrupts operations. The predictions can also involve external data such as market demands, so inventory can be stocked accordingly or weather patterns, so the supply chain can adapt to them.    

Efficiency

Efficiency often goes and hand-in-hand with speed, with the added bonus of leading to more profitability due to less waste. Thus, for many of the same reasons speed is improved, efficiency is too—automation and machine learning. However, in addition to those reasons, digital integration drives efficiency also because it can bring with it artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. 

AI, much in the vein of automation, can handle tasks that would otherwise be mundane, freeing up the workforce for more important matters. Robotics is useful in several domains, particularly warehouse management, as they can deal with the handling of the inventory. 

Decision-making

In order for a supply chain to perform optimally, the decisions that underpin it have to be precise yet flexible, accounting for customer demands and adaptable to any circumstance. The collection of data, the generation of analytics, and the subsequent insights they give can be integral to understanding a supply chain. 

Moreover, the earlier mentioned machine learning can go a long way in making decisions more informed. As they give suggestions to help with inventory management, scheduling, market fluctuations, and so on.

Communication

As a result of the incredible size of modern day supply chains—often stretching from one side of the globe to the other—it’s critical that communication along them is excellent. Any gap can lead to a breakdown in the entire chain. One digital option to overcome this issue is blockchain technology.

Blockchain provides a database with an immutable and transparent digital record of the movement of products along supply chains. Where, in turn, each new piece of data has to be validated by every player in the supply chain. Consequently, there is a continual mutually agreed upon data trail of what is happening each step of the way. 

Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risks

As supply chains get increasingly digitized, the risks of supply chains being undermined by cyber attacks also increases, making cybersecurity vital to supply chain health.

Digital transformation is something that is crucial for supply chains going forward. If they are to keep up with the market demands that are placed upon them, they need the efficiency, productivity, and precision digital tools bring with them. However, with the considerable upside of digitization also comes risks.

Supply Chain Digital recently released an article outlining just how significant a challenge cybersecurity has become for supply chains, stating,

Research from Ponemon Institute indicates that cybersecurity is a growing supply-chain challenge, with 56% of organisations reporting to have had a breach that was caused by one of their third-party vendors.

That means more than half of those in the supply chain industry have dealt with cyber attacks already. That is a hugely concerning number and all the more reason for companies to make cybersecurity a priority. With that said, in order for companies to have optimal cybersecurity, they need to pinpoint the areas that present the greatest risk.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics highlights some of the most significant cybersecurity threats supply chains face today.

Software

A vast majority of companies use software for their supply chain operations that aren’t their own. That means they have to rely on software provided to them by a third party. As a result, there are many avenues through which they can be compromised. The software itself has to be diligently vetted to make sure that it can’t cause harm, but the threat doesn’t end there.

Each software update can bring with it a renewed risk. What’s more, often these updates are automatic, making it impossible to assess them before they’re already up and running. Finally, software issues can even arise from someone from a third party being brought in to run diagnostics, and it’s hard to know what they’re bringing in as they plug their laptops into a company’s supply chain network.

Hardware

Much in the same way as software, hardware is rarely built in its entirety in-house. It’s far more likely that companies will use hardware that isn’t their own, opening themselves up to cyber vulnerability. Each device or piece of equipment has the potential to be used to steal data or seize control of the system it’s being operated on. Thus, just like with software, third party providers  have to be stringently reviewed.

Network Services

The network service a company uses to host its digital traffic, if public, has the potential to have bad actors on it. Actors who can hijack company data. In turn, the company’s operations can be severely compromised. However, the solution to this is straightforward: the use of private networks.

Other Threats

The list of other potential threats is extensive. Cloud computing, the internet of thing (IoT), and third party vendors are all areas from which cyber attacks can arise. It’s worth touching upon the first two.

The risk of using a cloud for shared data storage is that it’s an easy target for hackers. What’s more, many devices’ default setting is to link their data to a cloud, providing an easily overlooked vulnerability. Similarly, the IoT can be a cybersecurity risk. A security camera, for example, when connected to the internet can be accessed remotely by malicious actors. Who, in turn, can spark a considerable privacy breach.

The simple fix for these issues and others is to take a safety-first approach. Rather than rushing to adopt new technologies, softwares, and devices, companies need to carefully access each of them. Only after thorough inspections, safety protocols, and when safeguards are put in place, should these new elements be adopted.

Supply Chain Management - Top 5 Cost-Saving Tips

Of the many ways companies can boost their profitability, simply reducing the costs of their supply chain remains one of the most overlooked.

Companies, on average, are spending more than they need to on their supply chains. The numbers bear this out. Benchmarking Success audits businesses to see how they are doing on average compared to industry bests. With that data, the Logistics Bureau found that,

They have audited almost 1,000 enterprises in different sectors to find that whereas supply chains accounted on average for around 9.8% of sales, the overall rating for best in class for supply chains as a portion of sales was just 5.7%.

With that in mind, clearly the industry as a whole should be doing a lot better in reducing supply chain expenses. While there are innumerable ways to go about this, below are 5 of the most important:

  • Strategy
  • Knowing the customer
  • Using 3PLs
  • Automation
  • Forecasting

This week’s article by Morai Logistics examines the 5 best ways to reduce supply chain costs.

Strategy

Strategy is the basis on which an efficient supply chain is built. It is the framework that holds it in place as it commences. As such, if companies don’t sufficiently plan out their supply chain strategy, there’s a high probability of excess in its expenses. A strategy needs to be precise, flexible to differing situations and customer demands, easy to understand, and involve every facet of the supply chain.

Knowing the Customer

It’s crucial to know your customer and personalize the supply chain to them. Otherwise, the potential for waste greatly increases. After all, you can have the most meticulous and well-run supply chain in a vacuum. However, when that supply chain has to adapt to your customer’s needs, it functions poorly. Or, it manages to adapt to customer needs, but that adds unnecessary expenses to chain. It’s crucial to avoid that by having a well functioning supply chain that has room to cater to the customer.

Use a 3PL

Conversely, rather than handling the supply chain planning within your company, you can hire a 3PL provider. 3PLs specialize at making supply chains as systematic and well-run as possible. As a result, as a company you only have to make a fixed payment, no unexpected costs, and the rest will be handled by the 3PL provider.

Automation

Automation allows for many operations and processes along a supply chain to be made more efficient, saving time and manpower—both areas where a lot of money can be sunk. Thus, as a company you can see boosts in productivity at most points along your supply chains. Automation can be applied to warehouses, inventory, data collection, transport, and more.

Forecasting

Uncertainty in demand can lead to a great deal of waste and inefficiency. If market demands are higher than companies expect, then their supplies can be lacking. On the other hand, if companies have plenty of inventory but the demand isn’t there, that inventory is wasted. By having accurate forecasting, companies have the ability to align their supplies with the demands of the market, leading to minimal waste in the supply chain.

Supply Chain - Customer Service and Technologies that Will Deliver it

Despite all the talk about blockchain technology, one of the preeminent challenges supply chains still face is customer service, and there are several technologies that could be the key to addressing it.

Customer service is an ongoing priority in the supply chain industry. Customers, now more than ever, need a seamless experience across a supply chain. Customers want their orders delivered faster. They want them delivered more accurately. They demand transparency throughout the process. Moreover, they expect an ability to track their deliveries. And, in turn, they expect inventory to meet their demand. More than anything, customers expect an experience modified to their individual needs.

A 2018 Logility and APICS survey on supply chain priorities revealed that,

30% highlighted the need to respond to customer mandates for faster, more accurate and unique fulfillment as a top business priority moving forward

The industry is well aware of the importance of customer service and is making it a top priority to solve. For companies to address this issue, however, they’ll need to adopt the precision, productivity, and granularity technology brings.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics details the difficulties customer service presents supply chains and how various technologies can solve them.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The term “AI” is so prominent in so many industries that are dealing with or relying on technology that it’s something of a buzzword at this point. But, there is a reason for this, it is providing unprecedented benefits to companies the world over. The supply chain industry is no exception. Through AI, companies will be able to optimize their chains from start to finish. Gaining access to analytics and forecasting that will be crucial to getting the most out of their operations. Thus, the faster and more accurate deliveries customers want can be achieved.

Automation

Automation achieves many of the same results AI does. By being able to automate many of the processes in a supply chain, it becomes more efficient. Operations in warehouses, involving data collection, and transportation, should all be automated. In turn, supply chains can become more transparent and reliable, on top of being faster and more cost-effective.

Mobile Applications

In the short-to-medium term, mobile applications might be the most useful technology this article covers.

A 2018 report highlighted by eMarketer stated,

Mobile devices and apps (27.9%) were cited as the technology that would deliver the most innovation benefits in five years.

Their are several reasons for this. Key among them is convenience. Everyone carries mobiles. As such, accessing these supply chain applications is simple, any time, any place. These applications enable supply chain managers the ability to get real-time updates and closely monitor their inventory and operations. Consequently, this brings a degree of granularity to the customer experience unlike what was achievable before. Supply chain managers can continually monitor the various activities that make up their chain and customize them to fit their clients’ needs.

Inventory and Warehouse Management Softwares

Softwares that allow for the management of inventory and warehouses are tremendous tools for optimal customer service. They provide visibility, control, and tracking of inventory. Moreover, they assist in meeting customer demands, by tracking inventory levels and making sure they are in the desired range. Finally, like all the other technologies covered here, they improve the accuracy, speed, and reliability of deliveries.

Supply Chain Management - Globalization

Alongside the many opportunities globalization presents for the supply chain industry are potential pitfalls, as such, preparing for them is crucial to the industry’s health.

Globalization has had many positive effects on supply chains. From greater market growth due to an increase in demand, to greater connectivity due the rise of the internet. With that said, the many positives have come with corresponding risks.

Milosz Majta, outlines this in his Forbes article,

Just as there are benefits and costs of globalization, there are similar pros and cons of a global supply chain. In particular, companies need to manage the related risks.

This means that those managing supply chains need to be able to mitigate for these risks if they want to see the upsides of globalization. After all, globalization is like any other major develop in market demand and pressure, resulting in both opportunities and threats. Crucially, the ability for companies to sufficiently overcome these threats is greater than ever. This in no small part being due to advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics highlights the obstacles that supply chains face as a consequence of globalization and what they can do to solve them.

Harmful External Factors

When managing a supply chain on a global scale, damaging external factors are more likely to come into play. These factors can look like political instability in countries, natural disasters, wars, etc. Ultimately what any of these factors amount to is a potential breakdown in supply chains. If a country’s government is in turmoil, its ports could be affected. If war breaks out, certain supply chain routes may no longer be safe. The same applies to a dangerous weather event. All these factors become more likely due to the scale and variability globalization brings with it.

This a risk that can’t always be mitigated for by its very nature—it’s external. The best a company can do is to have contingency strategies in place for each potential event. Even then, its strategy will ultimately be reactive. In turn, this threat does present an argument for regionalization. As regionalization reduces the problems of scale and instability.

Uncertainty

Market demands and trends become harder to prepare for the more actors that can influence a supply chain that are at play. With globalization comes the largest number of actors possible. In turn comes a staggering influx of data which gets increasingly hard to process, analyze, and make predictions off. Thus, supply chain companies have the potential to be floundering in the dark.

Here is where technological advancements become crucial in combatting globalization threats. By being able to automize data entry and collection, as well as process that data via AIs, this threat is greatly minimized. Once data collection becomes an automated procedure, keeping track of data becomes simple. And, with that data, an AI can make predictions and forecasts that make better sense of the market.

Complexity

More links in a supply chain mean more points of possible weakness within it. With globalization, supply chains are longer, involve more stops, take more time, and include multiple lines of communication. Consequently, this greater complexity requires greater oversight, as even one weak link can vitiate the whole chain.

This byproduct of globalization can be addressed in large part through the technologies mentioned previously. The increasing complexity in supply chains can be simplified by automating processes along it. Moreover, the reliability of a supply chain can be increased by the forecasting of AIs. Finally, the oversight needed along each link in the chain can be better achieved through blockchain technology.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of How Supply Chain Orchestration Improves the Customer ExperienceClearly blockchain technology has major benefits for supply chains, but even with that being the case, there are some significant obstacles it still has to overcome.

Blockchain is growing rapidly. According to TechJury, the blockchain market is set to have made 20 billion dollars by 2024. More pertinently, 53% of respondents to a 2018 Statista study said they’re using blockchain for their company’s supply chain. As such, the futures of supply chains and blockchains are very much intertwined. Yet, like with any new technology that has to grow at an immense pace in order to keep up with market demands, blockchain remains on unsteady ground.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics explores the most prominent hurdles blockchains have yet to overcome in the world of supply chains.

Novelty

The very fact that blockchains are such a new technology is their baseline barrier to any market. This includes the supply chain industry. Simply understanding the technology, how to talk about it, and how to use it to its fullest potential all have to be a part of an education process.

CoinDesk highlighted this in an article addressing blockchain limitations,

Blockchain technology involves an entirely new vocabulary. It has made cryptography more mainstream, but the highly specialized industry is chock-full of jargon.

Without acclimating each segment along supply chains to blockchain technology, it is unlikely be adopted by them. This is harder than it might seem. These segments are often disparate and will have different degrees of understanding and resistance—from those in warehouses to those driving trucks.

Security

Despite being known for the transparency they provide, blockchains aren’t foolproof when it comes down to data security.  This is particularly true when a blockchain isn’t large. Part of the strength of the technology is the size of its network. If, for example, there only a few actors along a chain, it’s more likely that that blockchain will be susceptible to poor/bad data. Large scale adoption is crucial to overcome this.

Additionally, not all blockchain platforms are made equal. Technological advancements in machine learning and automation are not always used in supply chains. This means the data that is entered in the blockchain is more likely to suffer from human error. Blockchain needs to be part of a larger evolutionary process by supply chains, not adopted in a vacuum.

Efficiency

Building off the previous point, blockchains are not only less secure but, in turn, less efficient without a holistic approach to their implementation. This means there needs to be integration of blockchain data into the supply chain platform being used. Moreover, without some kind of automated operation to make sure the data is clean, secure, and reliable, it can be a slow form of record keeping—human data entry being more time-consuming.

Maturity

In many ways, the topic of maturity is just all the issues raised in this article combined. All of them come together to make potentially the biggest obstacle that blockchains need to clear. Blockchain is a technology for the future. In the present, it is very new, hurt by that newness, and stymied by efficiency and security concerns.

Kasey Panetta of Gartner writes,

Confusing future blockchain technology with the present-day generation. Current blockchain platform technology is limited in scope, and falls short of meeting the requirements of a global-scale distribution platform that can enable the programmable economy.

Thus, one of the things blockchains require the most is simply time. However, that isn’t something they are receiving. As such, it is up to the countless blockchain projects in the world of supply chains to not rely on what they will be able to do down the line but rather respond to present-day pressures.

How Supply Chain Orchestration Improves the Customer Experience

3PLs have become a dominant force in handling the logistics and supply chain networks of large companies around the world, but where are 3PLs headed next?

According to Allied Market Research the 3PL market was valued at $869 billion in 2017. Furthermore, it will come close to doubling that by 2025. In roughly a 40-year span it has gone from being a insignificant industry in the 1970’s to becoming a ubiquitous presence vis-a-vie the supply chain process. With that being the case, it’s become apparent that 3PL is very much an adaptable industry. One that caters to the demands of modern day market pressures. As well as one that is set to navigate future demands.

However, for that to be the case, 3PLs have to identify what those future demands placed upon it will be. More importantly, be willing to act upon those demands, even if those actions come with a degree of risk. As logistics and technology researcher, Haley O’Donnell wrote:

3PLs tend to be risk-averse, which deters technology investment. Gaps in data leave 3PLs in a reactionary mode.

In this article, Morai Logistics covers where 3PLs have been and can continue to be successful, as well as areas of potential future success.

Areas of Continued Success

The rise of globalization has been taking place for decades. And 3PLs have done a remarkable job at rising right alongside it. As the world has become more interconnected, the number of multinational businesses have grown. Their influence has spread. Consequently, the demand for the movement of their goods as a result of those connections has grown exponentially. 3PLs have helped businesses meet that demand. And that demand isn’t slowing down any time soon. Despite some pushback in certain parts of the world, for the most part globalization is still increasing as an economic force.

In turn, the boom in the e-commerce industry in these past couple of decades has meant its heavy reliance on dependable supply chain processes. This has resulted in 3PLs playing a supplementary role that has seen it soar alongside e-commerce. Again, just like with globalization, e-commerce is set for continued growth in the years to come. With it being projected to grow in revenue by over a $100 million in the next four years in the U.S. alone.

Areas of Future Success

Going forward the expectations for improved transparency, responsivity, efficiency, communication, and predictive accuracy are only going to grow with the development of technology that can meet those expectations. Innovations in all kinds of technologies are coming thick and fast:

  • Blockchain technology
  • Automation
  • Machine learning
  • Transport management software
  • Mobile applications
  • Big data

Each area of innovation is varied and addresses multiple market demands. We’ll touch on several here. Firstly, blockchain technology provides transparency, security, and ensures quality as it allows for real-time feedback along the supply chain network. TradeLens, having just launched in the last year, is set to be the biggest blockchain-enabled trading platform going forward.

Equally, automation can bring down costs and increase productivity as logistical hurdles like manual data entry are replaced. Moreover, machine learning makes precise predictions about supply chain routes possible, so that risks can be anticipated, avoided, and solved for.

On top of that, transport management systems will drive down the cost and time along supply chains. With technologies such as voice commands greatly helping with communication along each stage of the transportation process. At the same time, mobile applications from which orders can be made, processed, and tracked, providing flexibility and ease for clients and 3PLS alike, unlike ever before, are being rolled out. Finally, big data will see 3PLs have the ability to prognosticate potentialities that enhance performance as a result. Addressing a plethora of the expectations mentioned earlier.

Thus, the future of 3PLs involve much of what’s seen them flourish already, as well as plenty that is novel. If the 3PL industry wants to remain a big player in the supply chain market, it has to continue to adapt. Not languish in the face of potential risk.