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3 Hot Topics from the Supply Chain Outlook Summit

SupplyChain_Recap (1)What’s trending in the supply chain industry? At the Supply Chain Outlook Summit in Chicago, three issues dominated the conversation: The growing talent gap, advancements in technology, and the changing nature of risk.

  1. The talent gap is widening. No companies are posting “Help Wanted” signs outside of the vice president of supply chain’s office, but maybe they should. No other topic raised as much discussion as the shortage of supply chain talent. Part of the reason may be that supply chain opportunities are still not viewed as an enticing careers. But maybe there are other complications, too. Like the fact that technology continues to influence the supply chain, orders and supply chains are becoming more complicated, and the amount of risk is growing in the supply chain. Unless you are a service-based company, the supply chain impacts your bottom line; doing supply chains well requires good people.
  2. Technology in theory is progressing faster than technology in practice. Microsoft Excel continues to be the number one choice for supply chain software, but that doesn’t mean supply chain technology is stuck in the 2000s. Supply chains are innovating, and new skill sets are required for this innovation. Automation and network optimization are becoming widely adopted, but predictive analytics and mobile technology are still at a moderate rate of adoption. As these technologies become more widely used, the talent gap could actually widen. Scott Sopher from Deloitte Consulting also mentioned 3D printing and driverless vehicles/drone deliveries, which are just starting to be implemented. Understanding these technologies and how they can and will be used will become key in the next 5 to 10 years.
  3. The nature of risk is changing. Understanding risk has always been important to best in class companies, but risk itself is changing. The location of your current suppliers might not be the same within 10 years. Nearshoring and reshoring are not just ideas anymore. Companies are looking at the true cost of doing business by location to determine where their products should be sourced and where they should be sold. And while sustainability isn’t a risk, not paying attention to sustainability could be. Resource and raw material volatility are all impacting companies. Paying attention to trends like water scarcity and urban congestion is required. These are not easy topics, and it takes a really talented team to understand what is going on and what is required in the future.

What do all of these trends have in common? Successful supply chains are still built on relationships. Who you have on your team is crucially important. The freight market is often referred to as a perfect market. There isn’t one user that is big enough to impact the market, so to really accelerate your advantage in today’s market, you need to strengthen the relationships you have. You will need to have open and honest communication with everyone you work with to ensure others share your goals. Only then will your supply chain be strong enough for whatever else comes at us in the future.