Ram Chary is a seasoned supply chain professional with over 20 years of experience in logistics and transport technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Colorado and a master’s degree in finance and operations management from Purdue. Today, top trends in supply chain management will be discussed for the benefit of supply chain managers.
Supply chain management is an ever-changing field. While many people think of supply chain management as a sub-practice of logistics, it draws heavily from other fields, such as operations, engineering, procurement, and marketing, and seeks to fully integrate these fields into a holistic approach. The coming year will see many developments that can disrupt supply chain management, and here are the five that are most likely to have an impact on the industry:
1. Cloud, Analytics, Big Data, and Machine Learning — With machine-to-machine and Internet of Things solutions being adopted at a rapid rate by supply chain managers, there is suddenly a huge mountain of data that is just waiting to be analyzed. Supply chain solutions providers will have to move fast in developing business and operations models to make quick real-time decisions and to predict seasonal changes based on historical data.
2. Brexit Strategy — While Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union came as a shock to many, it seems that, at least in the short term, there will be very little impact on the way things are done in supply chain management. The CIMA, for example, predicts that UK logistics providers will set up centralized hubs in continental Europe to go around tight border controls. Ram V. Chary also believes that a pivot to Asia, with its lower labor costs, is another possibility.
3. Drone Delivery — There have been attempts in the past to integrate drones into supply chain management, with mixed results. Most of these attempts involved using drones as a “last-mile” delivery option, particularly in areas with poor road networks. In the future, though, Ram V. Chary sees drones being used in other aspects of the supply chain, including crop harvest, manufacturing, quality assurance, maintenance and repair of equipment, and warehouse management, where their versatility will be put to greater use.
4. Real-time Shipment Tracking — Normal shipment tracking methods are only able to track parcels as they arrive and leave airports or docks. Recent advances in warehousing and tracking will make it possible for senders and receivers alike to see where exactly their shipments are. These not-so-new technologies include LoRa networks, which use only small amounts of battery power in transmitting messages over long distances.
5. Redundancy — In 2013, eight out of ten supply chain operators had at least one material disruption. About half of company facilities do not have back-up plans when a natural disaster or equipment failure occurs, resulting in shipment delays. Ram Chary recommends that companies store products in third-party locations if setting up their own back-up warehouses or facilities is not yet feasible. That way, customer orders can still be filled, even on a limited basis.