The supply chain is probably the most crucial component of all businesses nowadays, especially if you are an e-commerce business owner. You have to make sure that all the facets of your business’s supply chain work smoothly and deliver the products and services that you provide to your customer fast and without compromising the integrity and quality of your products. But as we move forward, consumer demands are changing rapidly. There is also the COVID-19 crisis across the globe which brought with it many disruptions in the supply chain.
If you are a new e-commerce business trying to stay relevant and also pull ahead of your competition in these trying times, it is not enough to research and update your supply chain statistics. You also have to make sure you stay updated on the supply chain trends of the future. This will help you plan your future supply chain and ensure you do not fall behind in supply chain management and lose customers. As customer satisfaction is the primary goal of any business, you have to make sure your supply chain is changed according to the demands of the global customer.
In this article, we have compiled a list of 15 supply chain trends that will hit the market in the next few years. These include our predictions about future changes in the supply chain and supply chain management, and inventory management, as they are all very closely connected. If you stay on top of these trends, you will be prepared to deal with any changes as they arise.
Importance of Digital Optimization on Supply Chain Operations
Moving from traditional supply chain methods to new ones was pretty drastic but inevitable. With the rise of new technologies in online business, it was only a matter of time before the traditional methods were replaced with faster and more capable digital ones.
Thanks to digitization, the supply chain management process has moved from being reactive to predictive. Instead of relying on historical data, we can rely on real-time data analysis, which can help us predict the actions we need to take regarding the health of a business’s supply chain. Data analytics has become more effective, and connectivity across all parts of the supply chain has become smooth and efficient.
All service providers across your supply chain can now work together to ensure the product reaches the customer on time without disruptions. We dive deep into the new digital optimization trends in the supply chain later in the article.
15 Supply Chain Trends
The supply chain is not just a network of institutions but also various activities that make the delivery of products possible. You have to remember that supply chain management is a pretty complex process involving many people and activities. There is software to optimize supply chain management and help managers run the supply chain smoothly.
With the sudden rise of COVID-19 in 2020, the business world changed rapidly. Businesses had to change their strategies as people started suddenly depending more heavily on online shopping all or businesses must also adapt to these scenarios as they are still constantly evolving.
With the rise of various new technologies in the field of business, it is not surprising that most of the supply chain trends today include blockchain, AI, and robotics ensuring the supply chain operations run even smoother than they do now. Here is a list of 15 such supply chain trends that you can look forward to in 2022-25.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
One trend already on a steady rise across many supply chains is the use of automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence). With the help of automation, you can streamline most of the repetitive tasks in the supply chain. AI, which mimics human intelligence and can learn from previous exercises, will help you handle more complex functions like demand forecasting.
The world of e-commerce is changing fast and if you want to pull ahead of your competition, then you have to integrate these systems throughout your supply chain to increase precision, efficiency, and speed. Many people fear that these automated processes will rob humans of their jobs. But if you do not use them, your competitors will and they will be able to overtake you with ease. That is why it is imperative for businesses to use AI and automation in their supply chain processes.
Customization is very likely to become more and more important in e-commerce businesses. Customers already expect businesses to deliver personalized experiences when they buy and it is only likely to grow. To keep up with this rising demand, you also have to make changes in your supply chain to reach your own goals. You have to figure out ways to customize your own manufacturing and offer customers a unique experience which will make them come back for more.
We already talked about how digitization has already become very important in supply chains and its importance will only grow in the coming years. Digitization mainly refers to turning existing data digital in order to gain faster access and also accurate analysis.
It can be tough for businesses to transition to complete digitization but it does come with a lot of perks. It can make your supply chain way more agile, dynamic, streamlined, lessening your cost of business. If you are running a business in 2022, you have no choice but to go digital if you want to make a profit.
The rise of consumer concern about the whereabouts of their products and the sustainability of the businesses they buy from is pushing companies to be more transparent. You have to make sure you use sustainable supply chain methods that will decrease your business’s carbon footprint. But in the near future, you have to be even more transparent with your customers regarding the effects your supply chain has on the different aspects of society and the earth.
Providing reports on how many jobs your supply chain created, the modes of transportation and labor that you use, and also your sourcing practice will become necessary for satisfying customers.
There are many sudden changes that may result in your supply chain being disrupted. Natural disasters, changing costs, and the availability of materials are some of the unplanned occurrences that can disrupt your supply chain suddenly. Your supply chain needs to be agile enough to bypass these problems and efficiently deliver products to your customer. With new technologies in the field, you can identify potential issues, predict many scenarios even before they occur, and change your supply chain in order to ensure your service level and efficiency is not compromised.
The one downside of digitizing everything is it becomes more vulnerable to cyberattacks. You cannot ignore digitization, so you will have to ensure your networks are more secure from breaches: a rising threat against supply chains across the globe.
Since everything is connected, there are increased threats of identity thefts and privacy breaches that threaten your business and customers. Anti Hacking technologies, firewalls, and other online security precautions will inevitably become more important as time passes.
Within the last few years, we have witnessed many changes in the world; a pandemic, wars, political disruptions, and many more. We rarely consider how these issues affect businesses and their supply chains. The world is unpredictable, and we have already discussed how your supply chain needs to manage the predictable disruptions. You must also be very good at risk management to fight these disruptions.
If you cannot procure materials because where you procure from is situated in a volatile area, you have to find a replacement soon, so your business does not falter. You have to make quick decisions to ensure your customers do not suffer the consequences of these disruptions.
Circular Supply Chains
Circular supply chains are well on their way to completely replacing linear supply chains as they are more sustainable and cost-effective. This includes reselling products that the customers discarded after refurbishing them. And because of the lack of availability of some raw materials, some companies are taking a step further ahead and breaking down their older or returned products to procure raw materials from them.
Processing these products will have some initial costs, but this method can save you money in the long run. In addition to being very sustainable, this method also protects the environment from unnecessary waste.
We have already talked about how sustainability is now an essential factor for today’s informed customers. They are more inclined to buy sustainable products that leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet. And it will only become more critical with time. But sustainability can vary from business to business depending on the customer’s needs and the products they make.
So you have to make sure that you slowly become more sustainable without making some very drastic changes in the name of environmentalism. Because sudden changes like this can disrupt your entire supply chain, and the processes won’t be long-lasting. Start with small changes like sustainable packaging and product recycling and go from there.
Globalization of the workforce
New technologies made the globalization of the workforce possible. It is very evident that many companies are leaning towards multi-country operations. The constant growth was somewhat shunned by the pandemic but is on the rise again. Since many people lost their jobs during the pandemic, companies are also struggling to keep up with customer demands.
There is a good chance that in the future, they will outsource many jobs outside their countries. But it is a slow and complicated process that might take some time to build. So think about the needs of your business before you start thinking about the globalization of your workforce.
Products with shorter lifecycles
Some products have a shorter lifecycle and need to be delivered faster to customers. Unfortunately, companies that make products of both long and short lifecycles use the same supply chain for all of them, and that can be problematic. That is why it will be a smart move for you to develop a different supply chain for these products that need to be delivered faster and more frequently. That way, you can keep up with customer demand.
Integration of IoT and Blockchain
Both IoT (The Internet of Things) and blockchain are becoming increasingly popular in the e-commerce market. Both are used to enhance visibility and control in the supply chain. Blockchain helps minimize disruptions in the supply chain while raising visibility and strengthening customer service. It does so by combining all the components of your supply chain onto a single platform.
IoT, on the other hand, is mainly used to track the shipment and delivery of products. If the modes of transportation that carry the products have these sensors, you can follow the whole route pretty easily. This also leads to greater transparency and visibility and will help you improve your ROI.
While talking about supply chain trends, we have to talk about robotics and automation and how game-changing they are for businesses. Even though this is a massive overhaul, it is a step into the future. Many companies are using driverless vehicles and drones to deliver products and streamline the shipping process.
Most of the processes that take place in the warehouse are also being automated. Most of the labor and menial tasks in the future will be done with the help of automation. So it is bound to become one of the top supply chain trends in the next few years.
Logistics are an essential part of the supply chain of any business. Every aspect of the supply chain needs to be streamlined and flexible enough to improve customer satisfaction. This is where elastic logistics comes in.
Through the help of artificial intelligence, elastic logistics allows the whole logistical process to become more agile so that it can change itself with the rapid shifts in customer demand. This process can help your business deal with over and understocking issues and optimize usage of the space inside the transport. You can remain competitive and resilient even when the market fluctuates.
Customer-centric Supply Chains
If you want to survive and make a profit from your business in this cut-throat age, one thing you have to keep in mind is your customers. They are the most critical factor for any business; you have to cater to their changing demands while thinking about making any changes in your supply chain.
One of the most critical trends in the e-commerce supply chain will be customer-centricity. It is not enough to just deliver high-quality products on time. Some customers like a personalized feel for their products, while some care more for sustainability over everything. You have to make sure that your supply chain is capable enough to handle customers’ changing needs.
In the end, you must remember that these predictions are only meaningful when your supply chain is optimized and you can make these changes without damaging its integrity. The supply chain is the lifeblood of your business, and you have to ensure it functions with the highest efficiency level. The competition is getting more complex in the market, and if you want to keep up, you have to make sure your supply chain is in the best condition and then make changes to it as necessary in the future.