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Key Supply Chain Trends to Watch

Feb. 16, 2022
Here are some of the major supply chain trends that are taking shape in 2022.

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Staying on top of major trends is important in any business environment, but it’s become more important than ever during the global pandemic. From labor shortages to port congestion to constant supply chain disruptions, 2021 presented a seemingly limitless number of challenges for procurement professionals.

This year already promises more of the same in that even if the pandemic decides that this is the year to fade into the background, the long-term impacts it has inflicted on the world aren’t going to diminish quite as quickly.w

Knowing this, CH Robinson’s Adam James assesses the current and future supply chain landscape and gives his prediction about what lies ahead in 2022 and beyond. Writing for the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), James outlines the 10 Supply Chain Trends to Watch for in 2022. Here are some of his top predictions:

Companies will leverage more automation and advanced analytics. James sees the use of both continuing to accelerate, and mainly because they’re proven tools for helping companies mitigate disruption. “The implementation of predictive and prescriptive analytics — as well as advances in big data, algorithms and robotics — will have broad-reaching effects,” James writes. “Specifically, the organizations that harness the power of these solutions will benefit from greater visibility, data-driven decision-making, execution efficiency, predictability and profitability.”

Supply chain visibility is still the “Holy Grail” for most organizations. In a world where 73% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey say they’re still using spreadsheets for supply chain planning, it’s no wonder that visibility remains elusive for so many of them. “Visibility will be a key objective for organizations under pressure to achieve true transformation, satisfy customers and capture new markets,” says James, who adds that the ability to track and trace goods to the source is increasingly expected by consumers, and the Internet of Things (IoT) “will continue revolutionizing real-time visibility.”

The ecommerce boom is still going in full force. All around the world, James says warehouses are jam-packed, with some even dealing with products piling up outside their doors. “Ecommerce and omnichannel fulfillment will continue to shape the way organizations identify and establish key priorities,” he predicts, “creating challenges with regards to scale and network efficiency while producing new opportunities to gain competitive advantage.”

The focus is on developing resilient, agile supply chains. Both are essential to creating flexible networks that can withstand the test of time and effectively respond to dynamic customer demand and ever-increasing uncertainty. “The agile supply chains of the future will be those that can react quickly to changes, delays and unexpected events,” James writes, “in order to meet customer expectations, outpace the competition and drive growth.”

Cyberattacks continue to be a dominant threat to supply chains worldwide. The explosion of data and digital tools are creating more open doors for bad actors and pushing companies to “do better” when it comes to cybersecurity. “Expect greater collaboration when safeguarding networks, devices, people and programs,” James says. “In addition, more organizations will choose to invest in redundancy, firewalls, and advanced antihacking technologies and employee training.”

Industry 5.0 is here. A term that refers to people working alongside robots and smart machines, industry 5.0 finds robots helping humans work better and faster by leveraging IoT, big data and other advanced technologies. Within this context, James sees both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as “foundational” to this integration of people, processes and systems within a wide array of operational environments.

“The technology-driven evolution to industry 5.0 — which involves a more collaborative approach, as well as partnerships between humans and robots — will have significant impact on supply chain functions such as planning, demand management and fulfillment,” he writes. “As machines learn, improved insights will be discovered, leading to significant transformation, advancement and competitive advantage.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.