Today’s supply chains function as a result of extensive research into how a supply chain behaves, its chief concerns, successful risk management, diverse markets, widespread collaboration, and technological advances. However, current supply chains fall victim to the problems of inefficiencies, inexcusable rigidity, and failure to recognize the growing demands of consumers. Some of today’s supply chain service providers have already taken steps to advance supply chain entities into the future; a best-in-class supply chain will focus on these 7 key areas.
Proactive Use of Big Data
With the onslaught of information on the Internet and its applications, data will prove to be an important aspect of future supply chains. Supply chain service providers and supply chain managers (SCM) will be able to use data to identify inefficiencies, create proposed solutions, and implement such solutions. Furthermore, the use of such data can be applied to creating verifiable forecasts for needs in inventory.
Having too much, or too little, of a given item is detrimental to a supply chain, and research suggests the service parts supply chain will become more prevalent than current supply chains. Inventory optimization relies on accurate, precise forecasts for needed items. However, it also requires an extensive evaluation and rapid identification of sudden changes in the market, which will impact manufacturing, shipping, and all other aspects of the supply chain process.
As the global economy becomes more interconnected with newer, emerging markets, the number of corporate players within the supply chain will increase. This leads to one ultimate problem: how will more orders be fulfilled at today’s pace? This is where flexibility will become important. Flexibility refers to the ability of the supply chain to adapt to the changes within the market, political climates, and other events, which would otherwise affect the supply chain.
The widespread increase in connectivity, particularly through mobile devices, has taught consumers to believe in the power of their voice and demand instant gratification. Obviously, instant transport has not yet been invented, so the alternative remains ensuring orders are processed without error, quickly, and via the fastest method of transport. Tomorrow’s supply chains will need to combine varying methods of transports to gain a competitive advantage to giving consumers their rewards: intricate shipping and tracking details and their products.
Customization is a tricky aspect of a best-in-class supply chain. At first glance, it seems most appropriate to define customization as individual ERP systems for each supplier, distributor, or retailer within the supply chain. However, customization refers to how unique supply chain processes may be implemented across the supply chain to provide consumers with what they want. For example, an order of new mobile devices may need to be fulfilled within 24 hours and all appropriate packaging may be manufactured on-site at the shipping facility. Additionally, increases in the number of individual businesses within the supply chain will lead to a more diverse group of products to manufacture and, subsequently, repair. As a result, the service parts supply chain will need to be able to adapt and create customized parts to meet this growing demand. Crowdsourcing venues, such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, have given ordinary people the power to gather funds to create new products and services, which will also influence the need to ensure customizability is a top priority for the supply chain.
Sustainability will be a driving force in a best-in-class supply chain. The Earth has a finite amount of fossil fuels left, and future supply chains will have no option other than using renewable forms of energy. Some renewable forms of energy to use will depend on the geographic location of the varying aspects of the supply chain. However, most areas will be able to benefit from the use of photovoltaic cells to produce energy from sunlight. Other areas may take advantage of volcanic activity in the form of geothermal energy, and other places may enhance technologies to use biodiesel, which comes from the decay of living tissue. Additionally, governments may implement strict requirements for moving toward renewable sources of energy for manufacturers in the coming years. Although some argue this will not happen, consider the recent sunset of the incandescent light bulbs. It started in manufacturing, and it has trickled down to individual homes. The same process will occur with renewable energy resources, and tomorrow’s supply chain leaders will need to be ready for a proactive role.
Compliance and Visibility
The last, and perhaps the most significant, aspect of a best-in-class supply chain will focus on maintaining compliance and visibility. Compliance involves adherence to any applicable local, state, and federal laws for supply chain entities. However, end-to-end visibility can eliminate all of the potential issues by allowing others to see into the supply chain. Essentially, this equates to a way of self-assessment and monitoring of supply chain processes, which leads to greater compliance.