Supply Chain trend of the decade

As we are at the start of a new decade we are still recovering from the largest worldwide economic crisis in generations and the latest flu pandemic, swine flu. It is worth thinking about what will be the Supply Chain trends for this new decade. What should, beside increased financial risk management be our focus and where do we have to excel to live through the next ten years and come out as winners?

The first observation should be that global supply chain trends will be a product of the global challenges we’re facing. It would be rather arrogant to assume supply chains will not be impacted by the macroeconomic and political trends we’ll face in the next ten years. Those challenges are as it seems now; global climate change, new emerging world powers, continues political instability, terrorism, pandemic diseases and maybe others.

This will translate to supply chain trends like sustainability and cradle to cradle logistics to control our carbon footprint and minimize wastage. Security, through business continuity planning to protect against political instability and disastrous events. Increased safety regulations and programs, to reduce lost time through injuries and disease. Progressing these trends without loss of supply chain efficiencies can only be achieved through innovative and smart supply chains. These trends will play an important role in many supply chains in the coming years and are probably here to stay. The social, political and legal pressure on sustainability, safety and security will make sure that they will be on top of the agenda for many global supply chains.

A second observation is that most of these challenges are bigger then the global supply chain networks between suppliers and customers. As it involves multiple countries, cultures, governments, rules of law it seems that these challenges can only be managed collectively. Supply network relationships have to be managed, trust has to be created, which as consequence can drive collaboration through the sharing of timely and critical information.

Therefore the real trend should maybe be supply network relationship management. Time has to tell us if early adaptors that master total network collaboration can transform this in competitive advantage and which industries will benefit the most. But it seems that besides the recurring trend of being innovative, getting supply chain network relationships right might be the biggest supply chain challenge for the next decade.

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