SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT - THE KEY FACTORS SHAPING IT TODAY – PART 2Supply chain management has undergone significant change in recent times due numerous external pressures—these are 4 more key elements shaping it today.

When there are dramatic changes in the supply chain, there has to be an equally robust response. That is the challenge supply chain management has had to face over the past year and in recent years generally. Supply chains live and die by how they respond and adapt to the ever-changing environment around them. Quality management involves finding the most pertinent facets of that environment and growing supply chains around them.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights several more prominent factors that are influencing supply chain management today.

Not as Competitive as Before?

Typically in the area of supply chain, competition is continually escalating. As technologies supporting supply chains get more powerful and ubiquitous, the stiffer competition gets. When applications exist that help supply chains become more efficient and productive, costs go down and profits up. Yet, despite this being the case, it’s not quite as simple as that.

There’s another consideration that greatly changes the competitive landscape, that being trade barriers. Given the state of trade disputes (particularly between a certain two giants on the global stage), competition is actually being driven down for many companies. Especially companies operating in nations with lower wages. As such, supply chain managers have to worry a little less about competition but a great deal more about the downsides of trade conflict.

Mass Movement to Urban Areas

Urbanization is hardly anything new. It’s a trend that has been taking place gradually over decades. Nonetheless, it is more relevant now than ever. Perhaps that’s because it’s reached something of a critical mass in order to drive monumental changes in supply chains. For example, the greater number of warehouses in cities that exist to accommodate the need for timely deliveries. Even if the pandemic has somewhat slowed this trend due to the rise in remote work, it remains a massive consideration for the way supply chains continue to be managed.

Greater Presence of Automation

In regards to automation and the supply chain, the question is: how much? Automation—and corresponding to it, the increase in the usage of robotics—is already a large part of supply chains. So, now what supply chain managers are going to have to consider is just how much larger that part is going to get. The balance between human and automated workforces seems to have reached some sort of equilibrium for now, despite previous concerns. However, if vehicles become fully autonomous, can that continue? It is this expanding role of automation that leadership will have to grapple with going forward.

The Need for Big Data

Finally, there’s the ongoing need for big data for quality supply chain management. Central to this necessity is artificial intelligence (AI), particularly machine learning. Machine learning grows more precise with more quality data. Machine learning has a number of functions, but perhaps its most critical is in its bolstering of supply and demand planning.

An article by Forbes further explains,

Over time, many more data inputs have been introduced into the demand planning process, and many companies are doing far more forecasts across different time horizons, products, and ship to locations. Supply chain planning has always been a Big Data solution. But machine learning works better the more data there is. SCP is becoming a Giant Data solution.

Lean vs. Agile Supply Chain - What's the Difference?Now, more than ever, the supply chain is focusing on agility, where once greater importance was given to a lean strategy—the question is: what exactly is a lean or agile supply chain?

A little over a year ago, if supply chain professionals were asked whether a supply chain should be lean or agile, while there won’t have been a consensus answer, and certainly a good number would’ve pointed to a hybrid approach being the best of both worlds, many would’ve placed greater value on supply chains being lean. 

That is no longer the case. After a year of dealing with a pandemic, supply chains are placing greater focus on resilience. And, central to that resilience, has become agility. With these two strategies (lean or agile) playing such a large role in supply chains, it is imperative to know exactly what they each are and thus why this shift is taking place.

This ebook covers what lean and agile supply chains are, what characteristics define them, where their strengths lie, and thus highlights how they’re different.

What Makes a Supply Chain Lean or Agile and What Benefits Come with Each?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Supply Chain Management - The Key Factors Shaping it Today - Part 1Just as the dimensions of supply chain have transformed, so has supply chain management in response to them—here are the biggest forces influencing it today. 

The supply chain landscape has seemingly undergone a seismic shift over the past year. Yet, much of what the pandemic has spurred on isn’t a shift in supply chain trends but rather an acceleration of them. Nonetheless, supply chain management has had to respond to this changing landscape, regardless of nature of the changes, as strategies that might have been on the horizon prior to COVID-19 are now imperatives for survival.

This article by Morai Logistics covers several of the most significant factors that are influencing supply chain management today.

The Ecommerce Boom

The growth in ecommerce has been astounding. For years it’s been rapidly rising. In 2020, that already incredible growth became even greater. This, of course, has implications all the way through supply chains. One more obvious implication is that managers have to put more emphasis on last mile solutions.

However, there are other less straightforward considerations they need to be mindful of, such as automation. The use of autonomous technology in warehouses has become even more useful. This is because they foster even greater productivity and, with concerns regarding the spread of COVID, they reduce human involvement.

The Need for Precise Personalization

Catering products or services as precisely as possible to the customer has become amongst the most vital components of quality supply chains. With digital transformation becoming the new norm for companies, it’s allowing management to harness the necessary technology (such as customer data platforms) to finely segment their customers and serve them accordingly. This means manufacturing itself as to be responsive and flexible too.

As a Forbes article on supply chain megatrends outlines,

Manufacturing automation…is making it easier to create many, many more product variants. Companies are beginning to explore on-demand manufacturing rather than traditional manufacturing models, meaning they can keep less physical inventory on-hand. Using a digital representation of parts allows manufacturers to make small changes to digital files quickly…

Supply Chain Softwares Hosted on Clouds

Modern supply chains need a variety of cutting edge softwares in order to stay competitive. What this has resulted in is more and more companies looking to cloud computing to host these applications. With the ability to implement and integrate new softwares quickly and scale operations accordingly, the cloud means managers have more solutions on their plate than ever before.

The earlier mentioned article by Forbes explains,

Covid-19 has also proven that cloud-based solutions can be implemented with far fewer consultants located at the customer’s site. Supply chain software suppliers have told me that in terms of implementations, Covid-19 was mostly a non-event; pivoting to remote implementation consulting was not that difficult.

IoT and Supply Chain Tracking

IoT’s had an increasingly critical role in supply chains in recent years. Their presence is only going to get stronger. In this case, it’s not a result of the pandemic. Rather, it’s because of the next generation of the internet becoming more widespread. As 5G becomes more widely available, supply chains can connect more devices to it.

It’s up to managers to evaluate how they can best utilize a more connected supply chain that has continuous real-time data available from various stages in the chain. If used the right way, IoT having a stronger role in the supply chain could mean better tracking of operations, the state of inventory, and more. Additionally, it could also mean greater visibility and thus transparency of the entirely chain.

Top 10 Supply Chain Trends for 2021 - Part 1As a tumultuous year marked by supply chain disruption comes to an end, eyes turn to 2021—so what are the biggest trends to watch out for heading into next year?

It’s been a year of incredible turmoil and, subsequently, change. This has been especially true in the world of supply chain. Supply chains were hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and were made to aggressively transform their operations in order to survive. As such, the year has seen them experience digitization at a rate unlike ever before. Moreover, their has been a strategic pivot from efficiency at all costs, to agility in order to bolster resilience. Now, as a new year fast approaches, the question becomes: how will these many changes shape supply chains going forward?

This article by Morai Logistics highlights 5 trends that will influence supply chains in 2021.

Environmentally Responsible Supply Chains

The push for green supply chains has been strong for years, and next year will be no different. More than ever before, customers expect the companies that they buy from to be responsible in regards to the environment. Not only that, a majority of them are willing to pay more in order to support products that are.

Thus, by taking their supply chains green, companies not only work towards bettering the environment but also gain more loyal customers. Not only that, but it has the added benefit of positively affecting company culture and reducing waste, improving profit margins.

The Automation of Robots

Automation and robotics have been tremendous forces of productivity in the supply chain in recent times. As automated robots are able to uniquely assist various sections of the supply chain, they’ve staked a claim for being a required component of quality supply chains. With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that their adoption will only continue at higher rates than before in the future.

An article from Finances Online provides an overview of many of the most valuable capabilities of automated robotics,

More companies today are using drones and driverless vehicles to streamline logistics operations. Companies and consumers can expect drones to become fully capable of making deliveries of small goods. Self-driving cars are also likely to be more advanced by 2020 … In warehouses, autonomous mobile robots will see more use in speeding up menial, labor-intensive tasks … robots can drastically improve the supply chain’s productivity.

Blockchain Growth

Blockchain technology, despite a lot of buzz, has seen slow adoption. Given the many concerns around it, including whether it’s truly scalable in its utility, the hesitation has been understandable. Yet, as visibility remains a major priority for companies, the technology is becoming hard to deny. More and more, companies are viewing it as a central piece in their supply chain visibility. With this being the case, blockchain saw considerable growth this year, and that growth should continue in 2021.

Emphasis on Transparency

Tied to both sustainability and visibility, is supply chain transparency. Customers want to know the consequences of a company’s supply chain when buying its products. These consequences range from their environmental impact to their working conditions. In response to this, companies are looking to find ways (including the aforementioned blockchain technology) to give customers a transparent view of their supply chain operations and their outcomes.

A Globalized Workforce

The workforces of companies are changing. Already research shows that 80% of manufacturers have multinational operations as of this year. The main reason for this comes down to skills. Companies have skill gaps that they have to address, and limiting workforces to a single country hurts their ability to gain access to that necessary skilled labour. With this being the case, the multinational workforce trend will remain strong in 2021.

The Top 6 Supply Chain Trends in the Year of COVID-19After a year dominated by a pandemic, many of the anticipated trends heading into 2020 have been reconsidered—here are 6 to be mindful of going forward.

The supply chain has experienced more disruption and subsequent evolution than any time in recent history. As a result of COVID-19, companies have had to reevaluate the state of their supply chains and make the necessary adjustments to make them thrive in a time of great uncertainty. What that means is that many expectations as to the state of supply chains this year have had to have been thrown out and replaced. And, while certain shifts in the supply chain have been long anticipated, they nonetheless require reexamining for how they’ve unfolded.

This article by Morai Logistics presents 6 of the most prominent trends in supply chain today.

Agility is More Important Than Ever

As important as forecasting is, it’s agility that’s gained greater attention over the course of this year. If this pandemic has demonstrated anything, it’s that supply chains can’t always anticipate the market. With that being the case, it’s critical that supply chains be agile (and flexible) enough to respond quickly to fluctuating demands.

Blockchain Gains Traction

Blockchain has been a technology that for years has gained attention and displayed promise. Yet, despite that being the case, reservations around its viability have remained and adoption rates have remained low. While the pandemic hasn’t radically changed that, it has once again highlighted the value (specifically, transparency and security) of the technology. As such, it has garnered renewed interest.

Sustainability is a Must

The demand for sustainability has been building for many years. COVID-19 has done little to dampen that demand. Simply put, sustainability within the supply chain is quickly becoming something that is no longer optional.

An article from Manufacturing.net expounds,

For example, 66 percent of millennials are more likely to patronize a company with sustainable and eco-friendly culture. Furthermore, brands that advocate for sustainability grow 5.6 times faster than brands that don’t.

Big Data Remains Critical

Supply chains need to be intelligent to succeed. As self evident as that is, the route to intelligence is multifaceted. One key facet is data. Data is the lifeblood of intelligence. Thus, the more data a supply chain has to work with (given the right tools), the more precise it can be with its intelligence. That precise intelligence, in turn, helps combat the many disruptions that supply chains might face.

AI Continues its Ascent

Tied closely to big data is artificial intelligence and its subsets (such as machine learning). Another critical component of an intelligent supply chain is having the right tools in place to utilize data. No tool is quite as robust and varied as AI. From forecasting to automation, its uses are as wide as they are advantageous.

The previously mentioned Manufacturing.net post explains,

By 2019 end, 37 percent of organizations had implemented AI, and in 2020 the numbers are poised to grow. Businesses that make use of AI technology in their supply chain have seen improvements. Such improvements include inventory management, staff productivity, supplier selection process, and customer experience.

Omnichannel is the new Standard

Finally, given the impact the pandemic has had on physical patronage, the need for omnichannel fulfillment has only increased.  What’s more, at this point, quality customer experience is nearly synonymous with omnichannel service. Customers desire seamless service, where what’s physical and digital no longer need to be clearly distinguished. This is even more so the case with the onset COVID-19. It’ driving an unprecedented number of customers online, with physical interactions having been reduced to a minimum.

Ensuring Supply Chain Success During and After COVID-19Companies are facing significant hurdles since the onset of COVID-19, especially in their supply chains—here are the steps they should be taking to ensure supply chain success.

COVID-19 took everyone by surprise. In its wake business operations of all kinds have been disrupted. The supply chain in particular has shown its vulnerabilities and its need to change. With that said, it critical for supply chain managers not to be reactionary. Supply chains must change to adapt to the reality they currently face, however, they should also be ready for what’s to come down the line.

As such, it’s up to managers to take the kinds of action that will not only help their supply chains survive and thrive during this pandemic but also prepare them for whatever other disruptions or challenges that may yet come. After all, in a landscape that is broad and often unpredictable, myopic decision making can be catastrophic

This ebook presents the measures companies should be implementing in order to make sure they’re successful during the pandemic and for years to come.

What Should Supply Chain Managers be Doing to Beat the Pandemic?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

The New Normal - 5 Ways Supply Chains are Reshaping ThemselvesSupply chains have undergone extreme change in response to the pandemic these past few months—here’s what they’re set to look like going forward.

It’s hard to overstate the impact COVID-19 has had on supply chains. It has brought risk to numerous processes within them, particularly in warehousing. Moreover, it has made certain areas of sourcing as well as supplies inaccessible or unreliable. Equally, it’s called into question the very shape of the modern supply chain. It’s demanded acceleration in some aspects of the chain and a step backwards in others.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights several ways in which supply chains are transforming in response to the pandemic.

Regional Supply Chains

With global supply chains breaking down due to the impediments that come with COVID, supply chain leaders are looking to adapt to a regional model. This is because many of these impediments are coming by way of companies’ reliance on China. As such, companies are now looking for regional independence in their supply chains.

A CNBC article from earlier this year, covering a EIU report explains,

“By building quasi-independent regional supply chains in the Americas and Europe, a global company will provide a hedge against future shocks to their network,” the EIU said. “For those companies that have this luxury already, they have been able to shift production of key components from one region to another as lockdowns and factory closures resulting from coronavirus have unfolded.”

Sourcing Diversification

While most companies aren’t going to outright abandon China, the sensible ones will look to not have sole sourcing dependency on them. It comes down companies wanting to have options in case of future emergencies such as this one. They don’t want to be once again stuck and scrambling for a path ahead. Thus, the “China + 1” approach has gained a great deal of traction. It gives companies the ability to still benefit from Chinese sourcing while having the flexibility to pivot.

Increased Storage

Although this won’t necessarily be a long-term trend, for now at least, shippers will require more storage. With many carriers having cancelled their shipments, leading to a much higher proportion of blank sailings than before. Put more simply: wherever demand has been negatively impacted, inventory needs to be stored.

As Supply Chain Dive’s post with Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griffith Lynch emphasizes,

Shippers will, in the short term, need ports and carrier partners that are able to provide extra storage, he said. Much of the warehouse space available throughout the U.S. is being absorbed by e-commerce customers that have seen a significant increase in business since the pandemic, he continued.

Focus on Collaboration

The value of strong supplier relationships has never been more apparent than it is now. More than ever before, there needs to be mutual trust and understanding between supply chain leaders and their suppliers. In an uncertain supply chain landscape where demand can rapidly change and hindrances can spring up in any section of a chain, it’s critical for those running them to be working in unison with their suppliers so they are able to anticipate and address any possible risks. What’s more, this additional consolidation of information will only make the supply chain as a whole run more smoothly and efficiently.

Digitization

There’s been a considerable focus on resilience following this pandemic. Rightfully so. Supply chains need to be robust enough to weather whatever comes their way. Central to achieving this for many companies has been digital transformation. Through going digital, companies have been able to address many of the factors necessary for resilience.

Via digitization, companies have been able to make their supply chains more transparent, integrated, collaborative, proactive, agile, visible, and so on. By giving themselves access to the best technologies available, companies are putting themselves in the best position to handle uncertainty.

Supply Chain Strategy - Navigating an Uncertain EconomyWith the economy experiencing historic trouble, it’s up to supply chain managers to plan for an uncertain future and secure their supply chain for whatever may come.

After months of dealing with a pandemic, the economy has taken a serious hit. What’s more, it’s hard to tell how long it’ll remain depressed. On top of that, there’s the added factor of uncertainty. Perhaps the worst of this pandemic is over, our economies will continue to open up gradually and everything will be back on track sooner than later. On the other hand, a second wave of COVID-19 might come, pandemic measures might be put back in place, and the economy might once more struggle.

All of this is not to promote pessimism but rather to present some possibilities of what the future has to hold for the economy. With an acceptance of these possibilities, there’s the chance at empowerment. In the face of uncertainty, it’s up to organizations to be proactive. To ready their supply chains for whatever’s to come. So that they can be comfortable and confident in the fact that come rain or sunshine, they’re good to go.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights several steps supply chain mangers should be looking to employ in order to prepare their supply chains for the future.

Review Suppliers

Many suppliers are in a tough position. Many of their preexisting contracts will be useless and their customers will want to renegotiate. Moreover, they’ll experience a notable decrease in demand from them. It’s critical for companies to then review their suppliers and strengthen their relationships with the ones that survive that review. Key to this is building trust and openness. Which, in turn, can lead to collaborative risk assessment.

As an article by Supply Chain 24/7 puts it,

Companies that have already invested in creating transparent, high-trust relationships with suppliers, and that put in place supply chain risk monitoring systems, are already reaping benefits. Others must now redouble efforts to reassess risks within their supply base and work jointly with suppliers to develop and implement risk mitigation strategies.

Renegotiate Supplier Agreements

With the market having changed so drastically so quickly, companies will have to look at their contracts with their suppliers. If there is a possibility of renegotiation, they should pursue it. However, what they almost certainly should not do is try to force their supplier’s hand.

Acting in bad faith and not receiving their supplier’s delivery while pursuing a price decrease is not the way to go. Instead, companies need to work with their suppliers for an equitable new contract. While it’s important to act quickly and deliberately, it’s just as important for companies to maintain strong relationships with their partners.

Reinforce Supply Chain Resilience

Now more than ever, the areas of weakness within a company’s supply chain are being exposed. It’s up to companies to review their supply chain, analyze it, and shore up its most vulnerable links. Not only will such a review be useful now, but it will generally prove beneficial going forward.

As explained in the previously mentioned Supply Chain 24/7 post,

During periods of growth, many companies find themselves moving too fast to carefully analyze their supply chains and eliminate suppliers that add little value or introduce unnecessary risk. Now is the time to scrutinize distributors and brokers, and aggressively pursue dis-intermediation.

Collaborate

It’s already become a common theme in this article, and there’s a good reason for that. Without working hand in hand with their suppliers—their partners—companies will only experience further disruption and turmoil down the line. Now is not the time to be short-sighted and narrow-minded. Companies with a vision know they have to build healthy, long-lasting relationships for success. Especially in times of hardship. Through a more transparent, collaborative relationship, supply chains will find it easier to spot risks and areas of cost reduction.

Intelligent Supply Chain - 5 Reasons to Make the MoveSupply chains are are being forced to transform faster than ever in light of current circumstances—here are 5 reasons they should be becoming intelligent.

Recent times haven’t been easy on companies’ supply chains. They’ve had their suppliers challenged and resilience tested. In many ways the weaknesses of many supply chains have been laid bare and subsequently scrutinized. Why don’t companies have stronger protocols for handling disruptions? Why have some of them been so slow to respond to changes in global conditions and markets?

These important questions, and more importantly, the struggles that have been the source of them, have also meant that companies are looking for rapid improvement. And that means technological progress in the form of digital transformation. That’s where intelligent supply chains come in. In them lies the future of supply chains. A future where disruption is easier to predict, navigate, and respond to.

This ebook covers what intelligent supply chains are and the main advantages that come with having an intelligent supply chain.

What is an Intelligent Supply Chain and What Benefits Come With Having one?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Circular Supply Chain - What is it and Why is it Important?With companies putting greater emphasis on sustainability than ever before, it’s critical to understand what a circular supply chain is and how it functions. 

Today’s supply chain is one that caters its practices and operations to customer demands as precisely possible. In turn, few things rank more highly on the list of customer concerns than sustainability. Not only that, but the need for sustainability is also being driven forward by governments around the world, with numerous penalties and incentives for companies that are more or less compliant with their regulations and guidelines. As such, companies are quickly making a transition to ‘green’ supply chains. Supply chains that are less wasteful, use materials that are recyclable, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and more.

However, making that transition is far from easy and requires a holistic change in the way that supply chains are operated and managed. Essentially, companies need a new operating model. This is where the concept of a circular economy and circular supply chain comes into play. These concepts mark a paradigm shift; a novel way in which companies can design their supply chains for sustainability going forward.

This article by Morai Logistics explains what a circular supply chain is, how it works, and why its significant.

What is it?

A circular supply chain is a supply chain that is geared around reusing its ostensible waste materials as well as its returns. It aims to take these materials and returns and convert them into new products that they can sell once more. Thus, it marks a shift for supply chains. A shift in which waste as its traditionally known no longer exists or is kept to a bare minimum. Naturally, this also means near-perfect sustainability.

An article by Trade Ready elaborates further on the nature of circular supply chains and what they look like,

A circular economy is alternative to the traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value while the product is in use. When the product has reached the end of its life-cycle, then core materials are recovered and regenerated. The circular economy is waste-free and resilient by design.

Why is it Important?

It is a new model for supply chains because, by its very nature, it fulfills a need companies are desperately trying to meet. That being the above mentioned need for sustainability. It flips many previous intuitions on their head. In a circular supply chain, there’s value in waste. Where waste is normally seen as a source of weakness, a circular economy makes it a resource. A resource that’ll translate into more products.

Moreover, its not only a forward-thinking model in terms of its outcomes, but also in its management. Crucially, it marks another step towards the marriage of technology and supply chain practices, as digitization is key in enabling a circular supply chain. With that in mind, perhaps the next big thing in supply chain technology could be an all-encompassing system that enables companies to ‘go circular” as currently they have to adopt several technologies to do so.

A recent post by Supply Chain Digital emphasizes both the points above,

“The circular economy creates an ecosystem of materials,” commented Sarah Watt, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “What was previously viewed as waste now has value. However, those ecosystems are complex and include many interdependencies and feedback loops. Digital technology has the potential to provide visibility and enable improved decision making when it comes to raw materials and services”…study showed that there is no ‘all purpose technology’ that will enable an organisation to develop a circular economy, it is a combination of technology that leads to this.