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What Is The Future Of Supply Chain Management? 16 Experts Share Their Insights

  • 1 July 2019
  • Sam Mire

Do you know how that lettuce you purchased at the store got there? What about the latest Christmas present for your kid? They arrived via supply chain, a system of transport that is essential to virtually all commercial businesses. Want to know the state of supply chains and where they're headed in the near and long terms?

These experts shared their views on the future of supply chains with us. Here's what they have to say:

1. Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of The Association for Supply Chain Management

Abe Eshkenazi“Technology makes our world smaller, but it also creates increasingly complex global supply chains. Real-time connectivity and visibility enable supply chain professionals to work with partners anywhere, sharing insights with a supplier’s supplier or a customer’s customer. These digital networks enable rapid information transfer through a web, rather than a chain. This will lead to increasing expectation for transparency and visibility in every step of the process.

As business decisions influence other organizations at an even faster pace, supply chain managers must use this power to create positive influences, including fair labor practices and strong environmental standards. Now, we must work to educate young professionals to prepare them to lead the extraordinary supply networks of tomorrow.”

2. Pervinder Johar, CEO of Blume Global

Pervinder Johar“New platforms will power increasingly-connected truckers and LTL providers into the gig economy. As technology advances, we’ll expect business models to evolve, which has the potential to drastically disrupt the trucking industry. Technology will help reduce the amount of empty miles driven and therefore number of drivers needed. Fortunately, fewer trucks on the road mean less of an impact on the environment. In addition, the movement of freight becomes more like a marketplace, a real-time part of the supply chain much like Uber has become for consumers, providing real-time inventory orchestration and allocation for inventory in motion and at rest.”

3. Rob DeStefano, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Ivanti Supply Chain

Rob DeStefano“What farm-to-table has done for healthy eating, data visibility is going to do for broader supply chain operations. Logistics managers will be able to see their specific order from the time it’s assembled on the factory floor, through distribution and onto the retail shelf (even beyond). Riding on the blockchain wave, traceability will be real-time and comprehensive, which will be critical in areas like the cold chain. Businesses will be able to deepen relationships with customers, offering information about sourcing, labor and environmental practices, all of which are increasingly influencing consumer purchasing decisions.”

4. Ryan Chan, CEO and Founder of UpKeep Maintenance Management

Ryan Chan“What once was an industry driven by human labor, from warehouse product
collection, to packaging items for delivery, the supply chain industry will be impacted by technology and automation. In 2017, there were a little more than two million industrial robots operating on factory floors. Trends show that we are moving into the digital supply chain age, however, there are critical components of supply chain management that require human labor. A CMMS improves productivity by digitally tracking asset depreciation and availability, so that a supply chain manager can better make data-driven decisions for supply chain planning and determining cost strategies.”

5. Bill Leedale, Senior Advisor, IFS

Bill Leedale“In the coming years, supply chain management systems will enable closer integration and collaboration with key suppliers. This may take the form of portals and extended software systems, or it could involve using the type of software historically used for customer-relationship management for supplier-relationship management. A supply chain team will need to be able to identify suppliers subject to new tariffs and figure out a way to split the landed cost. They also will need to identify constraints early on in a project lifecycle and work proactively with suppliers to avoid bottlenecks. Ideally, the goal will be to speed the flow of information and cash. The Amazon Effect – customers demanding more and more advanced logistics and rapid service – will impact some industries especially fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).”

6. Joseph Walden, Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Kansas

Joe Walden“A recent article in the Harvard Business Review stated that 37% of all jobs are in the supply chain management field. As more companies, especially online retailers, realize the importance of supply chain management, the industry will continue to grow. A study published last year revealed as many as 6-9 jobs are available for every supply chain management graduate for the next decade. The future for supply chain management is bright but is limited by the need for supply chain security and preparedness for any action, man made or natural, that may impact the ability to get a continuous flow of products to the customers.”

7. Joaquín Villalba, Founder and CEO at Nextail

Supply chain management will become drastically more efficient and transparent. Fewer resources will be needed to serve end consumers, though they will provide more information throughout the process. Technology will help supply chains differentiate within a market that demands increasing speed and convenience. Specifically, data-driven automation will remove inefficiencies across distribution and delivery. Retailers will be better prepared for situational factors like weather changes, or shifts in demand. That way, retailers can move towards an 80:20 model, with 80% of stock decisions being informed by data rather than by gut. Additionally, materials scarcity and global warming will increase consumer demand for sustainability, resulting in increased supply chain transparency, delivered through blockchain.”

8. Andy Borchers DBA,  Professor and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Lipscomb University

Andy Borchers“The future of supply chain management is extremely dynamic with significant change coming.  A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “The Death of Supply Chain Management” chronicles some of the upcoming changes.  The limitations of current legacy systems will give way to a data driven future where artificial intelligence based systems smoothly manage the flow of goods and services. Some current supply chain work such as expediting freight or driving trucks on the highways will go away, replaced with software.

Over the past 40 years, logistics cost as a % of the US GDP has dropped from over 16% to under 8%. Further efficiency moves can lower this percentage even more.”

9. Peter Drakeley, Head of Global Customer Success at EazyStock

Peter Drakeley“Automation will be key to remaining competitive. Companies are increasingly going digital on the front end (think: eCommerce) and need to be able to keep up with demand and increased supply chain complexity. Suppliers are now global and customers have high expectations; having no system, a poor system or even multiple discrete systems makes it impossible for companies to accurately manage every moving part of their supply chain. Automation both accelerates the supply chain and eliminates human error. Plus, automation systems are already on the market and can even connect your existing systems.”

10. John Lowe, Principal at Tompkins International

John Lowe“The future is a supply chain that is “anti-brittle” and can flex/scale as business conditions demand.

The future is a supply chain that supports/enables ever-increasing customer expectations around speed, service, availability, selection, and price.

The future is a Supply Chain that supports/enables customer demands for an integrated experience regardless of channel.

The future is a Supply Chain that is a competitive differentiator versus a cost creator.”

11. Chris Crane , Co-Founder of Scout

Chris Crane“Supply chain management in particular is transforming rapidly, largely due to the need to deliver increased business impact while enhancing customer service for supplier partners and business stakeholders alike. Change management in these areas will focus on automation, collaboration, real-time availability, and overall integration of supply chain and procurement data to the enterprise. Supply chain and procurement are increasingly expected to collaborate cross-functionally to deliver required business outcomes and enhanced customer service goals. The greatest game-changer for the future of supply chain management is the emerging concept of out-of-the-box, value-add SaaS applications dedicated to procurement excellence in the aforementioned areas. ”

12. Charlie Wilgus, General Manager, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Executive, Lucas Group

“You can’t think or talk about the future of supply chain management without going straight to technology. While the advancements in technology affect every business in some way, the best supply chains will have cutting edge technology at their core. Specific to this is digital analytics and the innovations around robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). As supply chains advance into the future seeking better efficiency and more streamlined automation, I see AI and real-time video surveillance as two major factors that will ensure supply chain accountability and success.”

13. Madhav Durbha, Ph.D., Group Vice President, Industry Strategy at LLamasoft

Madhav Durbha“Humans and machines will need to work together and raise the bar of
productivity and efficiency. This requires higher levels of cognitive
automation, powered by algorithms, to enable unprecedented visibility and
speed of decisioning to humans at all levels of supply chain– and
warehouses and retail stores will be at the forefront of this innovation.

In addition, innovations in last mile delivery and additive manufacturing
will result in the hyper personalization of products and offers, and
delivery models will take hold. The ability to harness the power of
increasingly available data will set the supply chain winners apart from the losers.”

14. Colin Hayward, CEO of Chinsay

Colin Hayward“Supply chain management will experience a digital transformation, aligning the industry with global standards of automation and digitalisation. We see a shift from traditional (siloed) software, such as Excel, to connected state-of-the-art platforms specialised in commodity markets that can deliver advances in risk management, enterprise-wide technology, transparency and compliance. More processes will become automated and less manual work will be require, alleviating time spent on creating documents, complying to regulation and so on.”

15. Chris Gordon, VP of Product Management at AIMMS

Chris Gordon“When it comes to supply chain management, change is the only constant. Supply chain professionals will need to rely on more digital technologies to keep pace with disruptions and meet the challenges of this volatile age. In the future, the entire supply chain will be digitally represented. We expect to see more integration across digital projects as well. For instance, data from internet-connected devices will be used to predict potential disruptions and convert insights into an optimized course of action. Supply chain management decisions will be increasingly supported by advanced analytics output and augmented or automated with AI.”

16. Manav Garg , CEO and Founder of Eka Software

Manav Garg“The future growth and success of supply chain management lie with innovation and faster adoption of new technology. We anticipate greater use of technologies such as Blockchain and AI in supply chain. For too long, industries have been using traditional, siloed systems that are outdated and severely limit the potential to enable business intelligence within the enterprise.
Automated data informing business processes in real time must be a part of any business dealing with supply chain management. Having access to real-time data and the ability to gain insight from it using mobile devices will be the foundation layer for organisations.”

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About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.