What do you think the supply chain will be or look like in the next 10+ years? (Practitioners, Strategies, Networks, Tech & Tools, etc.)

2.5k views5 Upvotes9 Comments

Sustainable Supply Chain Adviser in Healthcare and Biotech, Self-employed
As a human being, not just a supply chain professional, I truly hope that supply chains will look different in 10+ years than what they are now (or were in the last decades) and I proactively work for this change to happen.

What would I like to see?

1. embracing fully circular, if possible regenerative setups, which allow us to live within planetary boundaries (directly embedding reduce, reuse, regenerate, repair initiatives and business models in their whole supply network, simplifying networks as well)

2. drive the change as a key business function and push the businesses overall to make the change for real and don't settle for mediocre results

3. fully embracing empowerment of supply chain professionals at every single level of organisations and not merely just talking about it (id est if someone at the lowest levels have a viable idea, it will be represented, it will be explored and credibly implemented unless there are better ideas - this is not happening now, whether we like to admit or not)

In more details:
I believe technology (blockchain, AI) will help to provide the required transparency and computing power for the relevant analysis and re-assessment of supply chains, so that needs to stay and develop further.

For strategies, once again, regenerative and circular business models that drive aligned value chain setups will have to succeed.

Supply networks will have to become focused on collaboration and respect, instead of the earlier fully competitive setups, which allowed exploitation in every area possible (these are now being helped by relevant legislation coming in more and more). The change on this aspect has started already, but we haven't reached breakthrough successes yet.

Practitioners will have to have entrepreneurial mindset and be able to apply systems thinking to their daily work beyond staying highly qualified in their area of specialism. They will also need to speak up more often if they see things not going in the desired direction.

There was and still is a direction in all business functions where endless dissection of processes and making roles as simple as possible have resulted in losing the overarching aim and value of processes, thus they don't function as they should, people don't have the authority to speak up as they should. These need to change to more complex roles and autonomy in the supply chain functions.

Organisations will need to pursue talent in a balanced way, acknowledging both specialists and generalists, as both will be needed to successfully make the transition.

Incentive structures will have to change in general, that is not even merely supply chain specific. We will have to be able to see beyond endless growth and profit growth expectations. Sustainable business means stability for both the owners as well as the communities they operate in. That needs to translate into a viable incentive structure that includes environmental and social aspects as well.

If these changes don't happen, we can engineer whatever we want on the incremental and reductional methods we used so far, we won't have options left due to the climate impacts. Unfortunately these methods are valid in environments that don't see seismic changes, but they aren't adequate anymore when the changes become as big as we experience now.

I think we could drive day-long conversations on this topic as it is so broad, but I'll be happy to see others' input here as well.

2 2 Replies
Founder, Self-employed

Great insights, Zsofia. Thank you for sharing. 

You brought up interesting points and I agree, that some organizations still have a top-down management approach, some heavily emphasize leadership executive/managerial positions while not having enough manpower to handle the most pressing issues for daily operations.

Sustainability and circular supply chains can become a reality sooner when more and more organizations put efforts into building the foundations of ecosystems to take place. For example, unnecessary waste of used electronic components in retired devices still need affordable technology and process to safely de-assemble and recycle them.

Indeed, business models, customer demands, and market conditions have changed drastically in the few few years. Business performance cannot rely on just the same financial KPIs. We realize that the social, and cultural, well-being of communities, nature, animals, earth, and the impacts from everything we do as individuals and businesses alike need to be considered beyond just carbon footprints.

There is no doubt that technology is a key enabler for achieving digital supply chains, with the right strategy and policy configured into the right supply chain architecture that could maintain and run as it's programmed to do, hopefully, this could help bypass some of the too many layers of managerial decisions along with the "not-enough authority" issues in the future.

I learned a great deal from your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to share. I hope you have a great day.

Sustainable Supply Chain Adviser in Healthcare and Biotech, Self-employed

Can only agree Jit and thanks for adding these and expanding on my original notes! I'm glad to see further comments on this topic finally gaining momentum and with great insights on your side as well! 
Happy to see your contributions!

CIO in Government, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
Simple put, supply chains must evolved. Adopting an innovative culture with better provision for cost and self reliance will be key. 
2 1 Reply
Founder, Self-employed

Indeed, Pedro. Agree with your perspectives. Thank you for sharing.

Supply Chain Director, Self-employed
The dream is to have a Supply Chain recognized as a core competency in more organizations and the function being more involved in the C suite in making all strategic decisions. Technology-driven, Upskilled and diverse human capital  will be the heart of the transformation fostering innovation and sustainability for a greater end to end customer experience.
2 1 Reply
Founder, Self-employed

Great point @Matheen Sait. I agree with you. Please keep up your great work.

It is hard to believe that some organizations still do not take advantage of how the supply chain function and discipline can greatly benefit the whole organization. It starts with customer needs and it ties to why the business has ever existed in the first place.

Chief Supply Chain Officer in Healthcare and Biotech, 2 - 10 employees
Supply Chains have evolved a lot over the past 40 years from initially being focused on just physical distribution and logistics to the full spectrum of the value chain. The original National Council of Physical Distribution became the Council of Logistics Management and has now become the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. Specifically a few developments I expect to see in the next decade (some may be aspirational) are
1. A transition to more local and sustainable supply chains. Reshoring has already started due to Geo-political considerations but as the income levels of low cost countries grow and aging population slows the relative advantage of country specialization, supply chain complexity should ease. 
2. Risk reduction imperatives will drive long multi-echelon supply chains to shorter, quicker, more responsive supply chains to address diverse markets.

3. Additive manufacturing will increase with competitive costs and more sophistication to deal with local variations in demand with super fast responsiveness and custom configurations.
4. Process and production automation will increase in response to aging populations and worker shortages in the future.
5. Technology in the future supply chains will be more integrated, inter-operable and easy to implement (hopefully!).
6. Machine learning will make routine decision making in the supply chain mostly automated freeing labor to focus on innovation and productivity.
7. With stringent ESG reporting supply chain sustainability, net zero emissions and reduce/reuse/recycle objectives will be central to  supply chain strategy in addition to cost and speed goals.
2 1 Reply
Founder, Self-employed

Great observations, @Lalit Panda. Thank you for sharing with us.

Totally agree with you. The #3 Additive Manufacturing's impact on supply chains will be significant and can eliminate almost the entire supply chain.


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