Each new year brings fresh opportunities and obstacles for supply chain planners (SCPs) in maximizing efficiency, containing costs, and maintaining steady growth. But in recent years supply chain logistics have become more complex in an increasingly digital and globalized industry, and simply establishing a concrete set of goals for productivity and ROI (return on investment) isn’t enough to keep pace in a competitive marketplace.
SCPs are required more than ever to identify possible trends in the supply chain industry, analyze them, and make educated guesses as to whether buying into these trends will help achieve their bottom line, whether in terms of cost reduction, supply chain fluidity, or other variables. And if 2015 is any indication, SCPs may face many ‘adapt or die’ decisions when it comes to the new and the next in supply chain logistics.
That said, 2016 poses a number of exciting opportunities for SCPs to reimagine their supply chain and inventory processes. Here are the 5 trends SCPs should be on the lookout for in 2016, and the reasons why they may be game-changers throughout the upcoming year.
Collaboration and connectivity
Full integration and optimization of supply chain planning software solutions across a company’s entire sales and operation planning (S&OP) landscape will be more crucial than ever in fostering a collaborative spirit. Big Data and the use of detailed analytics and reporting will help SCPs utilize real-time feedback to not only make quick, cost-effective decisions when it comes to inventory, demand, and freight, but also communicate the impact of these decisions to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and others within their company.
This high-level of collaboration and data sharing will also lead to increased visibility and accountability across all stages of the supply chain, and will also allow SCPs to eliminate communication silos - a top-down, isolated supply chain practice that inhibits connectivity and collaboration - in the supply chain and implement horizontal integrations to foster communication, data sharing, and transparency throughout the supply stream.
Given the uncertainties of today’s supply chain industry, the capability to make accurate forecasts based on past demand is key to creating seamless workflows and preparing for potential supply chain disruptions. Big Data will be an integral aspect of that preparation as SCPs must incorporate and utilize these advanced metrics and reporting to improve inventory management and increase communication along the supply pipeline. In addition, Big Data optimizes supply chain functionality from end-to-end, allowing planners to use real-time information to assess current supply needs and utilize predictive data and modeling to create cost-effective solutions for a variety of potential supply scenarios.
Simply put: Big Data isn’t going anywhere, and SCPs who embrace its uses will be far better equipped to navigate the supply chain waters throughout 2016.
The proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and other on-the-go devices has finally reached the supply chain sector, and SCPs will be well-advised to get on the bandwagon during 2016 if they expect to remain competitive within the field. As with the rise of real-time analytics and interactive, dynamic reporting, an SCPs ability to monitor supply chain statuses from anywhere in the world is increasingly a value-added proposition, especially given the rapid-developing variables in today’s supply industry – such events as unpredictable weather patterns, labor strikes, or conflicts in hotly-contested regions across the globe.
The interconnected nature of today’s most effective supply chain or intelligent planning software offers a wealth of benefits for efficiency, reducing costs, and maximizing the distribution of data and information. But with these complex systems comes the danger of boxing-out those who do not possess the technical knowledge of how supply chain logistics function.
As such, SCPs will have to adopt a more common language those in operations, sales, and marketing can understand. For example, SCPs may be used to presenting someone in sales with a 200 page manual of a company’s supply chain process. However, given the myriad of technology available, the ease with which SCPs can create an infographic, video tutorial, or even a podcast should encourage them to simplify the verbiage in an effort to increase understanding and collaboration.
Green Technology. Smart fuel solutions. Conservation of resources. These ideas will certainly be on the table throughout the next 12 months as companies must function on a more lean and effective scale to stay competitive and profitable. As supply chain hubs expand globally and more and more suppliers establish hubs in new locations, competition for resources such as energy and fuel will become increasingly important for SCPs as they work to streamline supply chain processes and decisions. Creative and sustainable approaches to warehousing, freight, and other supply concerns will be vital in maintaining a company’s relevance this year and for the foreseeable future.