Due to a number of factors, in particular the COVID-19 crisis, the past two years have been a turbulent and challenging time for supply chains across the world. Now that we’re in 2022, can we look towards a brighter future for supply chains? Here are some of the emerging supply chain trends for 2022 to look out for.
An increased focus on sustainability
Countries around the world have made pledges and set targets to reduce their carbon footprint to try and slow the effects of climate change. This also puts businesses under pressure to do their part and reduce their harmful emissions.
Green consumerism is rising, with more consumers than ever preferring to do businesses with companies that are committed to sustainability and environmentalism, and many willing to pay more for greener products.
Within supply chains, internal systems need to improve and energy use needs to be monitored and reduced where possible. Green supply chain management integrates sustainable processes into traditional supply chain processes such as product design, material sourcing, manufacturing, last-mile logistics, and end-of-life management.
As the world puts even more importance on sustainability, we can expect green supply chain management to become much more common.
The importance of a resilient supply chain
The past two years have cemented the importance of resilience for businesses the world over. The pandemic, trade wars, natural disasters and a worldwide shortage of key components are all challenges that have had to be ridden out, but increasing resilience against future disruption should become one of the key supply chain trends of 2022.
We now know have a new understanding of the old adage ‘expect the unexpected’, and practices such as a regular risk assessment should be seen as essential, rather than just a box that needs ticking.
Inventory optimisation, diversified and alternate sourcing, and rebalancing on-shore and off-shore strategies for manufacturing locations will all take on even more importance as supply chains realise that prioritising resilience will allow them to thrive rather than just survive future disruption.
New uses for tech such as AI
The widespread implementation of new AI technologies that can revolutionise the supply chain may still be a way off, but we may see some pioneering examples of how it might look. We know that AI has the ability to decrease costs and improve service levels in many aspects of the supply chain, resulting in speedier production.
The increasing use of IoT devices and technologies means there is more data than ever to increase the effectiveness of machine learning and AI. The use of smart factories, autonomous manufacturing robots, automated supply chain management systems, and predictive maintenance sensors, coupled with this wealth of data, could result in many processes and decisions being automated by AI systems, resulting in a far more streamlined and effective supply chain.
The implementation of improved systems should also help to improve worker retention by freeing them from repetitive tasks and letting them focus on more complex problems within a more productive environment.
Improved visibility and connectivity also improve the speed of service
Consumers now expect the goods they order to be delivered swiftly, due in part to the express delivery options of so many services. Speed is more important than ever for customers, so visibility and connectivity (along with some help from AI) will be key in streamlining the entire production process and getting goods into the hands of the end user more quickly.
However, visibility and connectivity throughout the supply chain has benefits beyond just speed. Complete visibility is the only way to make informed decisions on how to best meet targets and avoid risks. Visibility allows the collection and consolidation of data that can be used to benefit the entire chain.
We are likely to see quite a few changes to the ways supply chains are operated as we come out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic and further into 2022, but the overall trend for businesses will likely be to build a resilient and greener operation that can continue to grow even in times of disruption.
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