The Broad Trend: Resilience
After a turbulent 2020, many businesses are focusing on the topic of resilience. In fact, in their 2021 trend report, the Association for Supply Chain Management listed it as the top concern for the year.
In June, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSMP) even hinted that the need for more resilience is essential, even if it requires shouldering some additional cost. Their State of Logistics report noted that "The pendulum that once swung toward ultra-efficient, single-source, just-in-time and heavily cost-focused supply chains will swing back in favour of flexibility and reserve capacity to cope with uncertainty and risk."
In The Office
Many of this year's top trends relate to broad, supply-chain-wide concepts such as visibility and integration. The shocks of 2020 have led to a greater focus on predicting and preventing issues and rebounding from and adapting to them once they occur.
Integrated, End-To-End Networks
ASCM highlights that this year will see a shift towards a proactive approach to the digital supply chain, rather than a reactive one: "In the coming year, our experts believe more businesses will create fully integrated, end-to-end networks." They highlight that this will help predict and prevent future challenges.
Next-Generation Control Towers
According to Forbes, next-generation control towers are of high value but not widely adopted. They note that "In the past, a supply chain control tower tended to be focused more on handling transportation exceptions or be more focused on orchestrating around exceptions rather than using true optimization to maximize service at the lowest cost." Modern digital control towers, Forbes notes, are more likely to be built using data lakes, offering visibility as to how events across the extended supply chain can impact the ability to fulfil orders and handle unexpected events.
AI and Machine Learning
One trend outlined by Forbes as likely to offer robust ROI or other tangible benefits is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The author contrasts these with other technologies that may be "hyped" but lacks direction, features, or applicability.
In The Warehouse
Warehouses are experiencing changes related to e-commerce and, like many workplaces, also having to cope with special safety procedures required for COVID-19.
Changes in E-Commerce Leading To Shifts In Warehousing
Since early 2020, businesses of all sizes have had to adapt to changes in light of COVID-19. E-commerce sales grew by over 30% this year. According to the Supply and Demand Chain Executive, small and medium businesses have had to make rapid changes. Some of these changes include shifting to micro-fulfilment centers closer to the destination. These micro-fulfilment centers are smaller and allow for faster picking and delivery.
They also predict an increase in on-demand warehousing to help them acquire extra warehouse space on a short term basis.
Here at Routeique, in addition to 3PL solutions, we are creating solutions to provide our customers with flexibility in warehouse labour allocation.
Greater Warehouse Automation
According to Logistics Business, warehouse automation is another key trend for the year. They note that in addition to trends like robots, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and cobots, "Technology such as wearable devices, collaboration solutions, Android™ mobile computers and robots/cobots (collaborative robots) all help manage and enhance labor utilization and reduce costs."
Using Technology To Keep Workers Safe
Additionally, during these difficult times, keeping essential workers safe is of utmost importance. Existing and new technologies will be created and repurposed to meet these needs. For example, our partners at MotionMiners' technology can be used to help with social distancing. We've created contact-free yard management solutions to make pick-up and deliveries as safe as possible.
On The Road
When it comes to distribution and delivery, there is both a continuation of past trends, and new changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Increased Need For Innovative Last-Mile Solutions
According to the Association for Supply Chain Management, "E-commerce is forcing companies to create new and innovative last-mile delivery solutions, such as turning retails stores into fulfilment centers or delivery vehicles into pick-up points."
Last year, many of our customers experienced some of this in 2020, leading us to help many B2B distributors pivot to B2C. We hope to continue these initiatives this year.
The Importance of Cold Chain
As 2020 drew to a close, there were numerous breakthroughs on the front of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, many of these essential medicines require special storage considerations, such as cold temperatures. Cold chain became increasingly covered by media outside of the supply chain space, with publications like Popular Science and Marketplace highlighting connections between existing food-related supply chains and what will be needed to transport vaccines.
As the race to vaccine distribution continues, technologies supporting cold chain storage and compliance will become increasingly important.
Monitoring and Tracking
While this issue has come to the forefront of the popular media concerning vaccines, using GPS and IoT tools to track goods is becoming increasingly popular in general. Industry Wired states that IoT technology will become increasingly adopted to track and authenticate shipments and ensure that items are stored in the right conditions.
According to Forbes, "Both the last-mile and the full-size highway big-rig segments are likely where we will see the most widespread deployments" of autonomous delivery technology.
However, we would also predict that augmentation may be an essential middle step for smaller and medium enterprises. In these situations, vehicles can be augmented to assist with driving and monitoring. This allows companies to enhance their fleet without needing to invest in the higher cost of fully automated vehicles.