Every industry has gone through an extremely rocky yet transformative journey in 2020. Among them, logistics was the most affected as the pandemic exposed long-standing pre-COVID-19 issues such as the container crisis, lack of proper management, and multiple cases of human error.
The struggle is still there, albeit to a slightly smaller degree. It's up to the awareness and knowledge of business leaders to continue normalizing the situation and restoring logistics and supply chain management (SCM) to its former productivity levels.
This blog post offers an informative overview of supply chain trends to monitor and follow for building more efficient logistics operations in 2023.
1. Meet Supply Chain as a Service (SCaS)
Previously, outsourcing was rare for supply chain management. But the emergence of SCaS models made it clear—businesses are becoming more open-minded and willing to entrust a fraction of their processes to qualified experts.
Supply chains are on their way to becoming leaner—instead of massive SCM teams, there will be smaller teams of skilled and trained professionals working hard to improve logistics strategies. SCaS models offer more transparency to supply chain managers and create a better feedback loop for timely location and removal of potential issues.
SCaS becoming one of the emerging supply chain trends involves a more flexible approach to data. Teams taking part in SCaS need regular and fast access to relevant supply chain data, which raises the necessity for implementing cloud-based software and innovative data exchange solutions. Additionally, as smaller teams replace large ones, the need for scalability will necessitate reviewing and changing the IT department structure.
2. Need for better supply chain visibility
Aside from poor demand forecasting, around 23% of businesses blamed the lack of supplier risks visibility for their vulnerability to COVID-19 damage. In general, low visibility has been a common problem for SCM, reaching up to C-level executives and ending with the overall impact of supply chains on the environment and society. As businesses started investigating what went wrong with their supply chain management strategies, they started tackling visibility issues one-by-one.
- Assigning executives to supervise supply chain fulfillment
One of the most popular trends in supply chain management is facilitating relationships via Supply Chain Officers. These professionals are hired with one specific purpose—to monitor supply chain operations, so that C-level executives can receive a 360 view of their progress and inventory. This tendency is growing so fast that Supply Chain Officer is already considered one of the hottest jobs.
- Utilizing the potential of blockchain
Blockchain technology benefits forwarders, carriers, and logistics providers from all digital innovations. Blockchain platforms allow for updating all intracompany systems via an immutable data chain. Additionally, they facilitate customer experiences by providing a transparent look into the product's journey from point A to point B. With blockchain, supply chain managers gain a better understanding of every SCM component. And, since society has become more concerned about the companies' impact, blockchain-based solutions help improve brand image. Immutable recordkeeping makes it possible to generate transparent supply chain practices and transportation mode reports that serve as proof of compliance with regulations.
- Adopting IoT at a larger scale
Using IoT devices assists businesses with controlling and growing their visibility. By equipping warehouses, planes, and trucks with IoT technology, business leaders and supply chain managers can track all logistics processes and improve inventory management and product delivery. With IoT sensors, businesses can build a robust digital network that would provide more productive asset management, cut expenses, and increase ROI—while ramping up the resilience for potentially disruptive events.
The search for better visibility will be one of the top supply chain trends in 2023, with businesses trying out new solutions, approaches, and human resource management tactics until they find their perfect fit.
3. Injecting efficiency with AI-based automation
As human error was responsible for 80% of supply chain disruptions, businesses' search for increased efficiency made it to the top of supply chain trends in 2023. So, AI-powered automation solutions found a high demand in the logistics industry, offering a handful of much-needed improvements to supply chain management:
- Demand prediction
Introducing AI-based predictive analytics to SCM eliminates the need for repetitive calculations and helps streamline supply chain planning. An ML model can recognize patterns in the buyers' behavior and provide valuable insights, allowing businesses to predict demand and manage their inventory without any guesswork involved.
- Multitasking boost
Using AI-powered automation in logistics lets businesses provide their employees with means to cover more tasks at a faster rate. In addition, intelligent automation allows transforming error-heavy manually managed processes into fast, streamlined operations providing a centralized view of data. For example, Sage Freight, a brokerage firm in the US, has gone through such a transition, replacing its manual approach with an automated solution that processed more freight quotes from all its portals, delivering complete data for more accurate decision-making and bidding. From a long-standing perspective, Sage Freight can evolve its technology up to managing automated bidding with zero human intervention, which would open the door to new growth opportunities.
- Improved time management
AI-based tools can be used for automated supply chain tracking, inventory management, and controlling the routes used for item transportation. In addition to handling simple, repetitive tasks, smart algorithms assist with the most complex tasks as long as they're fed enough relevant data.The high potential for increased accuracy offered by intelligent automation solutions guarantees massive investments in this technology. With AI-powered platforms making it to top supply chain trends in 2023, we can expect many innovations and startups interested in developing the logistics area.
Discover the potential of AI for modern supply chains
4. Logistics are becoming more flexible
The need for agility goes beyond supply chain processes. Changes in demand happen frequently—the best way to respond would be to let supply chains expand or shrink in size, depending on the situation. Such an approach increases the sustainability of businesses. Yet, it also requires adopting a proper transformation strategy.
To be more responsive to shifts in the business landscape and market, logistics has to adopt a new mentality. Like with other supply chain trends, digital transformation will be necessary to move from "traditional logistics" to "elastic logistics".
Implementing smart cloud-based solutions and sophisticated inventory management software offers great leverage to companies ready for a massive overhaul.
Must-Have Inventory Management Software Features
Delivers an intuitive interface, easy-to-master, and doesn't take much time to onboard new employees.
Provides a full picture of all the processes happening within the supply chain, gathers and systemizes data across all departments.
Can shrink or expand its capacity depending on the supply chain needs and current objectives.
Provides instant access to relevant data for both on-premise and remote workers—eliminating human error while fueling employee productivity.
Cloud-based shipping software proved to have a great effect on supply chain management. Having enabled businesses to improve team integration, route optimization, and item tracking, cloud-based solutions are becoming a must-have component of successful supply chain management.
This supply chain trend is further solidified by the MHI 2022 report, which states that around 54% of companies plan to increase their investment in cloud computing to build supply chain resilience.
5. Workforce is going global
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected employment opportunities in the logistics sector. The final quarter of 2020 saw a peak of layoffs (14.7%) across the logistics industry. Currently, this rate is lower, but the situation hasn’t improved since very few potential employees are interested in taking the job. Meanwhile, the demand for logistics experts is growing, expected to increase by 4% in 2029.
To fill this gap, companies are more likely to search for logistics managers across the globe, hiring experts and providing them with necessary conditions.
This step towards globalization can be a problem-solver, granted the company has the assets for cross-border communication and meets employee expectations. For example, potential logistics managers expect unique benefits and agility from their workplace.
Younger generations want an employer who encourages their growth and offers them opportunities via training and mentoring programs. To meet these expectations, companies need to build a robust digital network capable of establishing a solid employee training and recognition system. Embracing such human-centered supply chain trends means that business leaders and supply chain managers must go beyond digital transformation basics, making a leap towards also the latest innovations.
For instance, a digital workplace is the brand new technology that allows improving employee engagement and managing workforce on a global scale. It combines all tools necessary for a department’s productive performance within a single shared space and provides seamless data accessibility regardless of the location. That level of agility makes a digital workplace a good choice for improved employee productivity, training, and human resource management.
Trends in supply chain management: survival is over, time to grow
After 2020, most businesses found themselves intensely focused on surviving the rapidly developing crisis instead of seeking opportunities or expanding into new directions. Company leaders based their decisions on what they could afford now, not on what they wanted or planned to do before the pandemic. This pressure made them highly cautious about their resources and workforce decisions and limited their interest in exploring new horizons.
However, the shockwave of COVID-19 has subsided, and businesses are using this moment of quiet to re-examine their strategies.
For many business leaders, now is the time for discoveries, transformations, and opportunities to increase their performance and improve their logistical infrastructure. Agility, quick navigation, and fast response to a force-majeure will be the necessary parts of their journey.
Is your logistics future-ready?
Have you thought about reshaping your supply chain management strategy towards increased efficiency?
If you have, let’s chat! With our vast experience with cloud, intelligent automation, and blockchain, we'll help you take the best out of current supply chain trends and productize it specifically for your company, niche, and goals.