The Future of Supply Chain: 10 Trends to Watch for 2020 & the Decade Ahead

A decade ago, supply chain was a very different function than the one we know today. Only 32% of businesses had deployed planning software, Amazon Prime was still in its infancy and there were no supply chain cloud solutions in existence - including our own, here at Elementum

In the years since, supply chain has shifted from being seen as the back-office stepchild it once was, to a strategic lever of business growth. So what will the next decade or even a year from now bring? We checked in with our crystal ball — also known as the amazing brands we're privileged to call our customers, our own supply chain product experts and several industry partners — for some answers.

There are 10 seismic supply chain trends expected in 2020.

Read on for the details and if you're a supply chain fire-fighting leader or hero practitioner, we hope this helps keep you a step ahead in the ever-changing supply chain game.

1. Your competition is automating - so make automation your friend.

Robots are coming for our jobs. How many times have you heard this in the news this past year? While no one knows exactly how these developments will affect the future of work - resisting automation is pointless. If you don’t want to automate - your competition will. The best approach is to understand how you can not only use but create leverage with this developing technology. By automating easily repeatable work, you free up time to prioritize high-value tasks that create tremendous ROI for your business and make you invaluable.

2. You’ll still feel confused about blockchain and its implications for supply chain - but that’s okay.

Blockchain might be an exciting cutting edge technology - but it’s still in its elementary stages of development. While innovation and progress continues to be made in the space - anyone using a fully scaled blockchain solution for supply chain is an extremely early adopter. Take this buzzword off your list of stressors for 2020.

3. S&OE processes will become industry standard.

Gartner has said "there’s S&OP and then there’s the real world". S&OE (sales and operations execution) is a process that allows supply chains to execute their strategic S&OP plans more effectively by creating agility based on the day-to-day inevitable disruptions in business. If you’ve ever had to manually firefight an incident due to partner delays, external disruptions due to weather, or unforeseen changes in demand - you need an S&OE solution. And it isn't email or spreadsheets or What's App or "all of the above" because then you have no way to learn from repeat patterns or best practices. We might be biased here - but Elementum is the only dedicated platform built for S&OE.

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4. Sustainability efforts will move from promises to action.

2020 has become a highly fashionable date marker for companies to complete aggressive environmental goals. Ford has pledged to cut water usage from its manufacturing by 72%. Starbucks is eliminating plastic straws globally. Coca Cola wants to reduce CO2 emissions embedded in ‘the drink in your hand’ by 25%. 2020 will be the year that we move from environmental corporate promises, to large scale action.

5. Data visibility? That was so 2010. Machine learning depends on not only seeing data, but systematically capturing it. 

If your organization is like most companies, you have made heavy investments in digitizing your supply chain over the past decade. Yet most teams still aren’t working within these tools when those pesky unplanned issues arise. How can you utilize machine learning if supply chain incidents live in your email? Without systematically capturing data and communicating in the tools that give you insights - you have no shot at creating meaningful analysis. In the next year, supply chain best practices will move beyond visibility and manual fire-fighting to stress dynamic data collaboration that can give proactive insights for action.

Curious about supply chain trends 6 through 10 for 2020? Join the S&OE community, Chain Reaction, on LinkedIn to find out.

If you’re a supply chain hero who's had to firefight external disruptions, incidents impacting partners, or changes in demand – this is your community. Join to learn how to respond when reality intrudes by browsing articles written by comrades-in-firefighting, enjoy the latest research on S&OE, and exchange ideas with other members.

We’d also love to hear from you! Add a comment with any supply chain trends you are forecasting for the year ahead. Here's to 2020!

Let's make this next decade the one in which automation was put to good use to minimize or-- dare we say, eliminate-- supply chain fire-fighting.

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