Today is my last day of writing content for All Things Supply Chain. So, with that said the time has come to for me to pass my responsibilities on to the next supply chain intern. Throughout this past year, I have gained so much knowledge from all the research I have conducted for both the original blogs and wrap-ups and from reading so many articles that discuss new trends and outline new improvements to the supply chain industry.
So, as my final blog post, I will be sharing my top learnings from my time as a supply chain intern.
Technology is driving the supply chain industry
Ever since the digital revolution began back in 1970s, the supply chain has been heavily influenced by technology. The supply chain industry is constantly changing and the reason behind this are these advancing technologies, with the current trends being the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain – to name just a few, which can provide companies with tremendous benefits across its whole supply chain network.
Technology is making life a little bit easier for supply chain managers and their networks. With technology, every part of the supply chain can operate more efficiently. For example, more and more warehouse and distribution centers are investing in robotics for higher levels of productivity and fewer errors, which ultimately increases consumer satisfaction. In logistics, the use of drones and Tesla’s semi-autonomous electric trucks have gained in popularity as logistics providers like FedEx look to operate more environmentally friendly and cut fuel costs.
In the retail sector, more brick-and-mortar stores are turning to technology to enhance the shopping experience as they are more vulnerable with the rise of e-commerce. So, they are trying to make the experience more interactive. One example of this from a previous wrap-up post is Alibaba and its ‘FashionAI’ concept store where it uses smart mirrors to make outfit recommendations, among other things.
While a lot of companies in the food industry are using blockchain to trace the journey of their products, blockchain also has a purpose in shipping activities. This week, CargoSmart launched a blockchain shipment documentation solution. The solution will be used to collect, consolidate and confirm data from multiple parties. It simplifies shipment documentation processes and increases accuracy and efficiency for shippers, truckers and custom agencies.
In the future, technology will continue to transform the supply chain as the industry better understands its function and benefits. The freight industry is already working on understanding blockchain with its Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).
More access to supply chain talent is needed
In my previous blog entry, I mentioned that education is necessary to build the next generation of skillful supply chain management workers. This statement still holds true. There is still a strong demand for supply chain professionals due to a shortage of skilled workers and a vast amount of the workforce in the supply chain industry are leaving because of retirement – 33% of supply chain workers are at or past the retirement age. As a result, supply chains are left with vacant positions which could have a negative impact on operations, particularly as supply chains are becoming more complex.
It has been predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the amount of jobs available in the logistics industry is expected to grow by 22 percent. I believe that education is the key to obtaining this talent. With that being said, there has been some progress with this issue – more colleges are offering supply chain degrees and more students are enrolling. In addition, some businesses and retailers like Walmart are providing existing employees with the opportunity to develop their supply chain skill-set through college assistance programs. Maybe more businesses need to adopt a similar approach and groom the talent they are missing to improve their access to skilled and experienced labor. These programs would increase the company’s expenses but it would be worth the investment, as in the long-run, the company can perform better.
Moreover, the education should cover more than the general topic of supply chain. Current and future supply chain managers also need to be educated on issues such as supply chain transparency and the new technological systems available, which are increasing in importance.
Get with the Transparency program or get left behind
This year, it seems that supply chain transparency has gained the most traction in comparison to previous years. More companies are getting behind the movement as consumers want to know about the origins and the journey of their purchased products. This then triggers other companies to change their ways.
I wrote a wrap-up post in April regarding the published results of this year’s Fashion Transparency Index and around a third of brands and retailers involved had increased their transparency efforts by 5 percent. More and more brands also provided information regarding their processing facilities and tier 1 suppliers. This is all a step in the right direction towards supply chain transparency becoming a standard practice and a transparent supply chain being fully adopted by all companies and industries. There is still some way to go before this is a reality because some businesses are deciding to not publish any or very little information regarding the full journey of their products, perhaps due to the risk of compromising competitiveness or exposing any controversial issues and creating a PR scandal. However, consumers are asking for transparency, which shows that the opposite is true and companies could lose customers, sales and profits to competitors if they don’t switch to a transparent supply chain and accommodate consumers’ wishes.
I feel I have learned a lot over this past year which will most definitely be beneficial in my final year at university, especially in my supply chain module, come September. I believe that technology, transparency and education will continue to play an important role in structuring and improving the supply chain industry.
Thank you to everyone that has read my wrap-ups and blogs throughout the year. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!