“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future” so said Danish physicist Niels Bohr – or was it Yogi Berra or maybe Mark Twain? Whoever said it, I’m keeping this quote in the back of my mind as I nevertheless look ahead to predict some of the trends, technologies and political situations that will affect digital supply chains in the coming year.
Global uncertainty is at the forefront
Domestic and international politics, rising oil prices, and global tensions are creating a volatile and highly unpredictable trade environment globally.
Climate Change will drive innovation, as today’s customer is looking to do business with ethical companies that can prove the sustainability of their operational processes and practices. Data from Nielsen, in fact, finds that 66% of global customers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. So sustainable supply chain processes are useful not only for the environment but also for customer satisfaction and – in many cases – for cost reduction as well.
BRICS countries become more strategic as they continue to have GDP growth rates of 6% and higher. Overall, trade from and to these countries will increase – with major corporations expanding or building manufacturing and logistics hubs in all these countries.
On-Line Retailing will continue to gain market share as giants like Amazon and Alibaba continue to flex their e-commerce muscles. Amazon owns almost 50% of the e-commerce market in the US while Alibaba sets new records – like sales of 30.8 billion in one day last year.
Supply Chains will be revenue generators as they become the catalyst for the new business process such as 2-hour deliveries, “x-as-a-service” models, individualized offerings to the “segment of one” and more.
Chief supply chain officer (CSCO’s) become more strategic as they can deliver higher value to companies seeking to move in such directions. As supply chain management and execution becomes a differentiator for companies, look for the CSCO – historically a back-office role – to come out of the shadows.
Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and predictive analytics will be at the forefront to run real-time intelligent supply chains.
Blockchain projects will move from proofs of concept to proofs of value and supply chain processes are a natural area to start, with uses cases such as track and trace, minimizing counterfeiting, ethical sourcing and cross border and company ownership as key candidates.
3D Printing in warehouses and manufacturing will grow as consumers look for individualized products and manufacturers look to reduce costs and be more responsive by manufacturing or finishing products closer to the demand.
Robotics process automation (RPA) will increase. The key is to realize what can be automated and what requires human intervention, to augment humans with AI and robotics, not replace them. As I was once told, “AI doesn't take the person out of the process. It takes the robot out of the person."
Best wishes for 2019
This wraps up my prognostications for the coming year. Surely, I’ll fall short on many of the particulars. In the broadest strokes, though, I think it is quite clear that technology advances will continue to help companies realize their digital supply chain objectives.
The winners in 2019 may very well be those organizations that have the flexibility to respond to supply chain change at a global and local level. Companies will need to be nimble – implementing technology that enables them to quickly adapt to new trade regulations, ever demanding customers, shifting resource availability and import/export restrictions.
There’s much to look forward to in 2019. I wish you all the best.
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