With New Year's Day around the corner, members of the electronics supply chain are naturally curious about the promise and perils that 2014 will bring.
Clearly, no one can say with certainty what lies ahead for our industry, but as Shakespeare once wrote, "what's past is prologue." I decided to take a look back at the blogs posted on EBN Velocity over 2013 to see what the standout topics were. Through an entirely unscientific process, I identified the five most frequently addressed issues: counterfeiting, conflict minerals, big data/supply chain analytics, risk management/supply chain security, and manufacturing strategies (outsourcing, offshoring, onshoring, and nearshoring).
Let's take a quick look at the current state of affairs and what we can expect in 2014 for each of the top five topics.
Current: The counterfeit threat is no longer being swept under the rug, and members of the supply chain have become much more proactive in their efforts to ensure part authenticity. Industry initiatives include DNA marking technology and standards and certifications such as the IECQ Anticounterfeit Certification program and SAE International's AS5553A Fraudulent/Counterfeit Electronic Parts; Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation, and Disposition standard.
2014: The war on counterfeits will definitely continue, but members of the supply chain now have better weapons in their arsenal.
Current: In July, a federal court rejected a legal challenge to the controversial Dodd-Frank conflict minerals law. Ambiguity remains on some of the law's finer points, but a number of resources are available for supply chain members, including the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition Global e-Sustainability Initiative Conflict Minerals Reporting Template, IPC's Conflict Minerals Due Diligence Guide, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.
2014: With the clock ticking on the May filing deadline, we can expect this issue to reach a fevered pitch. In addition, the growing slate of environmental, trade, and customs regulations are forcing members of the supply chain to become increasingly aware and proactive in their compliance efforts.
Current: Big data was a big topic of conversation in 2013. However, in terms of actual implementation and impact on the supply chain, its influence is still fairly limited.
2014: I think we will see business applications of big data analytics continue to expand from demand-related sales, marketing, customer service, and manufacturing into more supply side areas like procurement, inventory management, and supply risk management. More slow but steady progress is my prediction.
Current: Risk management continues to generate a lot of chatter but not nearly enough action. Time and again, we hear about research that indicates a growing awareness of supply chain risks and the importance of mitigating it, but these studies show a disappointing level of implementation.
2014: I'd like to believe that, as margins for error in the supply chain become slimmer, more organizations will realize they have the power to mitigate the likelihood and impact of many supply chain disruptions.
Current: In 2013, I think we saw a bit of buyer's remorse among companies that jumped on the offshoring bandwagon without considering the total cost of this strategy. There was a lot of discussion about reshoring and nearshoring, but there was also widespread hesitance to make another major change.
2014: I think we will see more of this talk turn into action as manufacturers use technology, like supply chain analytics, to manage their supply chains better across multiple regions.
This is, of course, just a sampling of the diverse issues that impact the supply chain every day. Please share your thoughts on these or any other topics that you think will play a major role -- for better or worse -- in the supply chain in 2014.
Finally, I would like to wish all our readers and bloggers health, happiness, and prosperity in the new year.