In 2020, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic almost entirely upturned our world as we knew it. Now in 2021, as vaccines continue to roll out at a broad scale, supply chain management is one of the sectors to receive a lot of attention. Not surprisingly, there are stricter regulatory requirements and increased safety and health concerns at the workplace. And a significant number of companies are now actively reconsidering and redesigning their supply chain structures.
As our society attempts to return to some semblance of a normal life, the supply chain is due to play a central role in this comeback. We can fully expect the pandemic to leave a lasting effect on various areas of the supply chain; in fact, supply chains are already adopting new features to aid them respond to the changing market and customer demands better. Keeping up with the times, there are several current supply chain trends we’re seeing – some of them new, and some that have been around for a while now.
There are no guarantees as to what’s in store for us in the rest of 2021, or in the upcoming years. In such a volatile landscape, it’s understandably difficult to predict the future trends in supply chain and logistics. However, in this post, we have compiled a list of 6 emerging trends in supply chain that have the potential to stay broadly applicable in 2021, and beyond.
Current Supply Chain Trends That Are Here to Stay:
1. Increased Focus on E-commerce:
As the Covid-19 pandemic pressurized the supply chain in unpredictable ways, one of the emerging trends in supply chain accelerated by the virus has turned out to be a heightened focus on e-commerce operations.
We shop. Quite a lot. During the pandemic, online shopping has become one of the most popular online activities across the globe. As of right now, it seems the increase in online shopping will remain at an even higher level than what was anticipated in the post-pandemic era, escalating e-commerce adoption rates by years in only just a few months. In 2019, global e-commerce retail sales amounted to $3.53 trillion, and the numbers are projected to hit $4.9 trillion by the end of 2021. According to studies, the e-retail revenues are expected to hike up to $6.54 trillion by 2023.
(image source: statista.com)
Now, along with an increased number of customers shopping online comes upraised customer expectations of flexible payment, shipping, and fulfillment options. Coupled with the unpredictability of customer behavior, the e-commerce boom has highlighted the importance of responding to the consumers’ needs and demands swiftly and efficiently. Therefore, this one of the current supply chain trends has led businesses to opt for fresh, innovative last-mile delivery solutions. Such solutions include turning retail stores into fulfilment centers and passenger vehicles into delivery vehicles, moving transportation hubs and distribution centers closer to the key retail partners so as to allow better real-time tracking and logistics optimization, etc.
2. Shift to Cloud-Based Supply Chain Solutions:
This one is by no means a new trend, as evident by the fact that spending on public cloud services in India is projected to reach $4.1 billion in 2021, which is an increase of 29.4% from 2020. Especially for supply chains that stretch across borders, moving to cloud-powered solutions has become an absolute necessity at this point. Available in many forms- like SaaS/Software as a Service, PaaS/Platform as a Service, and IaaS/Infrastructure as a Service, supply chain cloud computing provides scalability and a global reach, and exterminates the need for expensive on-premise computing infrastructure.
Plus, as cloud-powered technology is delivered over the internet, it is accessible from anywhere, anytime, which means communicating with suppliers and consumers throughout the supply chain becomes much easier. This is an added advantage particularly in today’s time, when most workers are operating remotely.
3. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic Process Automation can enable industrial supply chains to automate high volume, repeatable tasks. As per reports, the industrial robot market witnessed incredible growth in 2020 with more than 400,000 shippings, which was an 11% increase over 2019.
Judging by the emerging trends in supply chain, RPA is already playing a consequential role in supply chain management. Robotic automation over the supply chain can help in performing the labour-intensive jobs in warehouses, so the human workers can instead focus on decision making and other such tasks. Moreover, drones can be utilized for the delivery of light-weight goods.
4. IoT integration
Current supply chain trends suggest IoT, or the internet of things, is one of the technologies supply chains have been quick to adopt in the past few months. A recent report from Microsoft states that by the end of 2021, 94% of businesses worldwide will use IoT.
The best thing about IoT is that the tech can be used across the whole supply chain, from the suppliers to the consumers. IoT increases transparency across the supply chain. IoT devices enable businesses to keep track of inventory and the deliveries in real time, and automate stock reordering. GPS sensors can be fitted into vehicles for live location tracking, and sensors can also be placed inside the warehouses to gather data and improve visibility, and inside retail outlets to gauge demands.
5. Widespread Adoption of Blockchain:
Along with the IoT technology, the much hyped blockchain tech is also among the emerging trends in supply chain. Blockchain allows transparency in data sharing across a network of approved participants. Additionally, blockchain also offers maximum security to the data being exchanged because of its decentralized structure, and the fact that the tech keeps any data stored on the chain from being edited.
Since supply chain visibility is one of the top priorities for most businesses, blockchain adoption in supply chain management has increased in recent times. A transparent supply chain can minimize any disruptions, and improve the quality of the services offered.
6. Different Supply Chains for Products with Varying Lifecycles:
As the demands for personalized products and next day delivery rise in numbers, product life cycles are also becoming shorter. As of right now, most organizations use only a single supply chain for all products they offer. However, in order to become agile and efficient enough to facilitate products with all sorts of lifecycles, future trends in supply chain and logistics will include businesses utilizing several supply chains.
And there you have it, the top 6 emerging trends in supply chain we’ll see a lot of in 2021!
Our experts at BCI have studied the requirements of supply chains in India for years, and have come up with a range of solutions customized to your company’s needs. To find out more about our supply chain solutions, do give our website a visit!