Supply chains are the lifeblood of most, if not all, businesses today. Keeping all supply chain components running as smoothly as possible ensures that your business can provide on-time delivery of products and services, especially with changing consumer demands and supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from reading up on the latest supply chain statistics, it’s always helpful to stay updated on the latest supply chain trends.

  • Supply Chains are Going Green

Climate change advocacy groups and consumers’ growing efforts to be more environmentally responsible push the supply chain to become less harmful to the environment. Electricity and transportation hugely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, so green logistics are quickly gaining traction among many companies today.

Green logistics is just one of the many supply chain trends affecting warehousing. Similarly, climate-smart supply chain planning is expected to play a more significant role in supply chain management (SCM) in the next year and beyond. Environmental changes brought by climate change affect the availability of materials and resources, posing potential disruptions to supply chains. Companies will have to consider these factors and look for other resources if necessary.

Aside from doing their share to preserve the environment, businesses that adopt sustainable efforts also stand to gain more in terms of profit and customer loyalty. After all, more than 60% of customers don’t mind paying a premium for sustainable products. With green consumerism on the rise, more companies are expected to implement eco-friendly supply chain processes in the coming years.

  • Circular Supply Chains are the Future

Linear supply chains will soon be replaced by circular supply chains, where manufacturers refurbish discarded products for resale. To deal with the rising costs of raw materials and their volatile availability, many companies are opting to break down their products and turn them back into their raw material form.

Stricter government regulations on recycling and waste disposal also push companies to consider adopting the circular supply chain. Businesses with sustainable practices may also stand to gain incentives for their efforts, not only from the government but also from consumers, a majority of whom prefer environmentally friendly products.

  • More Supply Chain Integrations

The coming years will see even more components being added into the supply chain, as companies look to make partnerships and build integrations with third parties. Partnering up with third-party services can help companies reduce costs while improving customer service.

For instance, more businesses will integrate and start to offer inland services reducing overall freight costs and streamlining the supply chain. Integrations are particularly useful for shippers who often use a combination of sea and land transportation for their products. With integrated services, delivery times become shorter, and customer service improves.

Similarly, 3PL-based technologies allow supply chain managers to integrate multiple management systems via API and connect them to the cloud. These integrations will enable supply chain managers to overcome the limitations of in-house technology solutions.

  • Workforce Globalisation and Challenges

Companies can expect major changes in the labour component of the supply chains. For instance, one such change is the globalisation of the workforce.

Factors such as the need for more knowledge workers influence the demand for workforce globalisation. Knowledge workers—those capable of handling complex processes like analytics, procurement processing, and provision of services—drive the labour component of supply chains, and the emerging labour workforce in the UK doesn’t have the training and expertise to handle these processes.

Employment opportunities in the logistics sector were cut as a result of pandemic-related restrictions. More companies are trying to fill the gap by outsourcing these jobs and expanding operations to countries outside the UK. Advanced IT systems, collaboration software, and sophisticated logistics setups make globalisation easier for companies.

Aside from the skills gap, the shortage of supply chain workers also stems from a lack of interest in these jobs. Experts expect warehouse and supply chain managers to offer unique benefits such as mentoring programs and tuition reimbursement to make supply chain jobs more attractive to younger generations.

  • Better Transparency and Visibility in the Supply Chain

Rising consumer concerns over the impact of modern business on society create a need for companies to be more transparent about supply chain externalities. Companies have begun providing some transparency when it comes to the sustainability of their supply chains and their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Still, more visibility is needed on the impact of the supply chain on other aspects of society. The shifting nature of global trade and its corporate requirements may also result in mandatory corporate disclosures for a variety of supply chain practices.

For instance, companies will soon have to look into providing reports on the impact of their supply chains on jobs created, sourcing practices, as well as types of labour and modes of transportation used. Disclosing information about these aspects of their supply chain can help companies enhance brand image among consumers and prepare for compliance with regulatory requirements if necessary.

  • Extensive Adoption of IoT

Aside from blockchain, more companies are implementing IoT devices to enhance the visibility of their supply chains. For instance, airplanes, trucks, and other modes of transportation can be fitted with sensors, which provide live tracking updates on shipping and delivery. IoT technology in warehouses and retail outlets can also improve visibility in production, inventory management, and predictive maintenance.

Companies can use all these real-time information to proactively service customer demands, minimise downtime, and increase the supply chain’s overall efficiency. By increasing visibility across components of the supply chain, IoT devices can also help businesses optimise their assets and ROI. Creating a digital supply network aligned with one’s business strategy and with risk management procedures in place will help companies to build resilience to mitigate the impact of disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic (Deloitte, 2020).

Many businesses will also leverage the power of IoT by integrating the technology with core business applications such as business intelligence software. These integrations will enable analytics for the information gathered by IoT devices, allowing companies to make data-driven decisions on supply chain strategies.

  • Robotic Automation of the Supply Chain

Robotics currently play a huge role in transforming supply chains and SCM.

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.

In warehouses, autonomous mobile robots will see more use in speeding up menial, labour-intensive tasks. Combined with efficient warehouse management software, robots can drastically improve the supply chain’s productivity.

The growing use of robots and robotic processes automation software, however, does not end in the replacement of humans. The technology is intended to augment human efforts by speeding up simple, repetitive tasks. By relegating these tasks to machines, human workers can focus on higher-value tasks that have a more direct effect on business growth and customer experience.

  • Automation Through AI, AR, and VR

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also play an essential role in making supply chains more efficient. The technology can be used to automate procedures using algorithms based on data from previous processes. Automation makes supply chains more efficient by eliminating human errors.

AI also can identify patterns in the supply chain, and companies can leverage this technology to predict purchasing demands and manage inventory. This takes the guesswork out of planning and procurement, eliminating the need for planners to do the same calculations over and over.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) also pose various possibilities in improving the efficiency of supply chains. For instance, AR devices allow workers to multitask more effectively. Companies can also use these devices to enhance product development efforts by predicting potential product uses in a realistic setting.

In Summary

Optimise your supply chain for efficiency

The supply chain is changing, and SCM isn’t as simple as it used to be. However, advancements in technology give business owners plenty of ways to optimise their supply chains to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Staying ahead of these supply chain trends can also ensure that supply chain disruptions have minimal effect on your business. It’s never too early to get started on supply chain planning to ensure that your business’ supply chain is flexible enough to handle the effects of factors such as global trade issues, workforce shortages, and other unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfilment and manufacturing warehousing.