Supply Chain Trends

Digital disruption as a result of cloud technology mobility, AI and analytics greatly influenced innovation in the Supply Chain industry. A failure of businesses to adopt to these changes made 2017 an interesting year for most. To stay on top of one’s game, it becomes essential to start thinking about the supply chain trends 2018 has in store.

The current operational environment makes requires a curious mix of versatility and traditional best practice. While digital innovations have reshaped the supply chain management landscape, they still need to be rooted in sound industry principles. This prevents the risk of getting carried away with the latest fad, while ignoring the bottom-line.

In the face of a new year, wrought with both opportunity and pitfalls, the question to ask relates to the impact of supply chain trends 2018 will bring to businesses.

DATA DRIVEN LOGISTICS

It goes without saying that digital changes have had a vast influence on the logistics sector. Given its ubiquitous nature in industry, logistics has seen new technology introduced to optimize operations and supply chains. One such shift has come about through data driven logistics.

To note a key example, real – time load tracking gained popularity with many suppliers looking to gain better end – to – end supply chain visibility. In South Africa,  Matchbox, for instance, took hold as an automated, mobile solution to match cargo owners with transporters in order to increase their loads, filling any empty trips, thus cutting down on transport costs.

The realization that automating processes within the logistics scene is not just isolated to South Africa. The launching of the Kharas Innovation Hub at the University of Namibia, an enterprise development center meant to stimulate innovation in sectors such as logistics and mining, shows the regional changes taking place in this sector.

With regard to supply chain trends, 2018 will probably see a wider adoption of data driven logistics, especially with smaller businesses. This will create new opportunities for vertical integration and growth. With it however, will also come the need for staff upskilling.

INTERNET OF THINGS [IOT] INSPIRED SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT

Compared to other parts of the world, the reach and impact of the Internet of Things in Southern Africa has been rather mild. That said, the technology has gained remarkable traction in 2018. An increase in cloud computing and analytics has seen the steady increase in IoT utilization.

Ripples Industrial IoT in Kenya for instance have come up with a full service offering that provides for loss management sensors, wired inventory management, real time visibility and information sharing among others. It is thus probable that as a business if you don’t catch on to these supply chain trends, 2018 may turn out to be a difficult year.

Another area in which IoT is changing the face of supply chain management concerns inventory mismanagement and pilferage. By using technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification, suppliers are able to track and observe their cargo in real time. A case where such advancement has made a positive impact in profitability is Usangu logistics.  With a fleet of over 100 trucks, the company has seen a decreased rate of waste and pilferage.

While the perceived benefits of IoT may be exciting, they are virtually useless if employees on the ground don’t know how to make use of them. This is why training programmes in management systems such as Syspro are vital.

PERFECT ORDER DELIVERIES

With regard to supply chain trends, 2018 will probably see a continuation of a lot of developments that took root in this year. One such development is in the area of perfect order deliveries. Improved communication systems and a corresponding reduction in their cost has allowed for wider synergy between suppliers and distributors.

With the rise of e-commerce, third-party logistics agents have become popular as a method of fulfilling deliveries for bigger suppliers. These can span from transporters, warehouse space or at times a fully diversified supply chain solution that manages the whole process from manufacturing to end – user.

This decentralization, however, needs a streamlined delivery process in order to keep customers satisfied and increase profitability. Makro, a part of the Massmart retail chain, introduced pick up lockers where shoppers can buy products online and then pick them up at the designated locker.

While this is a start towards perfect order deliveries, with the progression of supply chain trends, 2018 may usher in more advanced and last mile solutions.

SUPPLY CHAIN TRENDS, 2018 WILL BE THE DEFINING FACTOR

Anyone who may have had doubts as to the longevity or impact of technology in supply chain management and logistics may have since become a believer. The fact of the matter is disruption has become a constant and mastering the change is a necessity for success.

While the hardware and software can be pre-ordered, installed or custom made, the human resource required to drive this change still lags behind. Most floor workers are not up to speed with industry best practice, let alone cutting edge innovations in the industry. To make the most of supply chain trends, 2018 will have to be a period of intense upskilling and training.

Companies such as Bizzco, having sensed the winds of change, are already engaging industry – based training courses to this effect. In this light, a value proposition that makes them the right fit is the fact that their training programmes are delivered and consumed with a digital aspect to ensure that not only do staff know what to do, they know how to do it.

As the year comes to a close, think about what the future holds. Don’t get left out in the race. Ride the trend and make the most of this industrial evolution.