Supply Chains in 2018
Paul Trudgian Ltd | Supply Chain & Logistics Consultancy No Comments

The world of supply chain management is continuing it’s rapid development, with AI and digitisation now deployed in many large organisations and starting to scale for small and medium sized companies. As we approach the end of the year, what’s on the horizon for supply chains in 2018? What are the constants that will continue afoot, what lessons have we learned, and what trends will be developing as we head in to the new year?

We can be certain that the focus of every facet of supply chains in 2018 will be the customers experience. However, it’ll be more than just a case of continuing to improve their experience but also about shaping and enhancing their expectations. There’s a big change on the horizon here. The shift in to the truly digital experience that we’ve seen gaining momentum over the last few years is now requiring a fundamental change in supply management.

This is where we think you’re going to need to expend most of your energy in 2018 – creating a new approach to supply management strategy. Let’s take a closer look at what that will mean.

Innovation is Fast and Furious

With digital tools and technology, and the speed at which customer expectations are changing, you need to be able to innovate and assimilate that innovation in lightening time. You need to take a close look at your market and work out how your supply chain needs to change to adapt to this. At the very least, you need to have secure data exchange processes; live system integration; enhanced visibility; enhanced tracking; and networking and collaboration that bring the whole supply chain together.

Go Beyond the Basics

In 2018, it won’t be enough to have just embraced the digital age. You should have done that a long time ago. It’s now about adding value to the digital strategies and tools you already have. How you transform your digital approach to changing needs will be a defining factor of 2018.

By going ‘above and beyond’, where technology is concerned, you should ensure 2018 is the year you see a sizeable improvement in profits and margins. What you need to be looking at is a digital supply network (DSN) which combines the trio of information, finance, and of course, talent. Through strategic use of a DSN, your supply chain can flex, adapt, be scalable – and smart.

We believe that this is where the most impressive strides in competitive edge will come in 2018.

Ignore Artificial Intelligence at Your Peril

It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a fad. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the supply chain is here to stay – and with good reason. It makes sound business sense. AI can achieve what human labour and machines alone can’t. It enables the speed we need in the digital age.

This is a booming area and supply chains are really on the frontline. We’re seeing AI used effectively in warehouses, logistics, and elsewhere in the supply chain. It is creating the visibility that we need to meet customer demand and expectations whilst reducing wastage. These advanced and predictive technologies will put those who use them at the head of the game.

Keep it Agile

We’ve urged you for several years now to make sure your supply chain is created and nurtured in such a way as to allow flexibility and agility. You need to be able to scale up and down and turn on a pinhead. This isn’t going to change as we head in to 2018.

We can be sure that 2018 is going to deliver one thing to supply chains: uncertainty. Those who can respond successfully and effectively are going to be the ones who grow in that marketplace. You need to plan for the unpredictable to enable your supply chain to cope.

Don’t Say Goodbye to the Old

Despite digital supply chains still gaining momentum, there’s one real area that digital can’t deliver on – yet. That’s the personal tactile experience consumers, wherever they are in the chain, want. Imagery, no matter how advanced, doesn’t place an item in someone’s hands.

Therefore, don’t write-off your physical presence and go solely digital just yet. Instead, realise that your store, showroom, or exhibitions is just one of several channels – all important in the omnichannel marketplace. However, your omnichannel strategy needs to be very carefully thought through and cohesive so that though they may touch and feel a product in one place, they can’t find it at a better price from your competitor online.

This means embracing ‘webrooming’ – the chance for customers to touch, feel, and still buy online using all available discounts and click-and-collect approaches. This trend of bringing the digital in to the physical will continue throughout 2018.

What Else Will 2018 Bring?

It doesn’t stop there. Another big area we need to watch in 2018 is supply chain talent procurement. Those coming in to the workforce now have different abilities and expectations than those from even just a few years ago. Your recruitment and procurement strategies are going to have to be tough to withstand the change ensuring that you’re recruiting for the future.

Particularly, you want to be embracing talent that can work easily with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and deliver the benefits of this to your supply chain. This is where technology meets talent and creates the driving force for future success. These systems need to be implemented and then used to create visibility throughout the supply chain.

It’s also the carrot with which to attract the talent you need. The next generation of supply chain workers will require everything from flexible working to knowing they are working with innovative tech.

Logistics Disruption in 2018 and Beyond

We also predict further significant developments in logistics operations in 2018 and beyond – from uberization of last mile deliveries, to anticipatory logistics and the further deployment of drones. Read more in our article Get Ready for Logistics Disruption in 2018 and Beyond.

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