Let’s face it, 2017 was a wild ride for supply chain professionals striving to keep pace with increasing consumer demands. This will continue to accelerate in 2018. Here are five major influences that will continue to drive supply chain evolution in the coming year.
1. Supply chain visibility
Investments in technology to optimize supply chains will help companies meet increasing demands for an Amazon- and Uber-like customer experience. In particular, order management. That means every time a part moves, it gets scanned. Each time a major milestone is reached, a notification is sent, enabling customers to track every step of their order through final delivery. Businesses will seek out solutions that empower their teams to track orders from origin to destination anywhere in the world, 24/7/365.
Furthermore, such investment must extend into field services. When customers put in a ticket for high tech equipment repair, they must be able to track both the field technician and repair parts to ensure they arrive simultaneously at the destination to minimize downtime and optimize time management.
2. Value-add services
Standard 3PL-type delivery services are no longer enough to help companies achieve long-term customer satisfaction. The future lies in providing greater value with innovative services such as configure-to-order, screen & test, and depot repair services for defective products. We’ll see more companies forming strategic partnerships with providers of end-to-end supply chain solutions that keep the parts in the network to interlock these services.
3. Proactive guidance
“Connecting the dots” — educating and aligning customers — will help them understand how third-party partners can assist in driving greater value into their overall service supply chain strategies. This requires a paradigm shift from the traditional reactive approach to supply chain management. Don’t wait to be asked; be a beacon of guidance. For example, leverage data and prepare an inventory management plan to meet seasonality demands. Use the results of screen and test to inform OEM engineers of common failures so they can eliminate issues in the next generation of the product.
4. Cost optimization
Business realities demand constant cost optimization. Companies are further challenged to shrink the supply chain beyond simple cost cutting. The challenge is how to consolidate the management of in-region and local procurement to maximize efficiency, cost and quality on all fronts. In addition, managing touch points, reducing overall cycle times to enable effective SLA attainment is constant. It’s how a customer can achieve more with less.
5. Industry consolidation
Our industry continues to consolidate, forming larger, more complex entities that are designed to simplify the customer interface with the global supply chain. We’re seeing complementary supply chain and logistics companies being acquired in similar industries. This permits customers to hire one partner for an end-to-end suite of customized, scalable services rather than multiple partners providing disparate services.
Regardless of your position in the global supply chain industry, it’s gut-check time: are you prepared to meet market demands driven by consumer expectations? Be proactive with these five initiatives to keep you and your customers at the forefront of the changing global landscape in 2018.