With COVID-19 vaccine injections hitting stride, many people are beginning to see the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. We begin to fantasize about how soon normalcy can return and how normal that normal will look. Do we dare imagine something resembling the world before March 2020? The reality is that an event of this magnitude doesn’t arrive unannounced, kick up its feet, make itself at home, and then after the better part of two years, suddenly stand up, tip its hat, bid us farewell, and disappear as if it hadn’t just trashed our whole house and jacked up every one of our routines. This unwelcome guest didn’t just leave some superficial nicks in the wall that we can patch over with a little spackle. Now we have a nervous tick, we startle at loud noises, and we always double-check to make sure the deadbolt is fastened. In other words, COVID-19 brought with it long-term societal effects, new expectations, and permanent changes, the reverberations of which those in supply chain management will be continuing to adapt to throughout the rest of 2021.
Emphasis On Supply Chain Resiliency
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Few, if any, were fully prepared for a global pandemic the magnitude that we saw in 2020. Certainly, the influx of demand and uncertainty of labor had an adverse effect on supply chains across industries around the world. As 80 percent of organizations saw their supply chains negatively impacted by COVID-19, 77 percent are now accelerating their investments in supply chain sustainability over the next three years with logistics and manufacturing being key focuses. Companies will prioritize visibility and risk monitoring technology in 2021 to avoid getting caught flat footed again by a new variant, another healthcare emergency, or otherwise.
The saga at the Suez Canal put an exclamation point on the statement COVID already made: to avoid shortages, it makes sense to relocate some materials and inventory locally so catastrophic events don’t cut us off from supply. Other efficiencies, however, must be exploited to make up for the increased costs of warehousing and labor that come with it. Sophisticated technologies may pave the way for leaner inventory.
Continued eCommerce Explosion
Consumers found themselves cut off from physical stores due to social distancing, so many were forced to patronize retailers online for the first time. Ecommerce saw its highest annual growth in at least 20 years, an uptick that accelerated ecommerce forward by two years. And just as old brick-and-mortar habits die hard, these new ecommerce habits won’t soon dissipate either. Case in point, 88 percent of US consumers plan to continue purchasing gifts online and sending them to recipients. As more people fully commit to ecommerce as a viable way of life, so too does the high demand and expectations that come along with it, which is a burden that ultimately falls on the supply chain.
The cumulative effect of all the aforementioned supply chain management trends for 2021 is a critical need for agility to effect greater efficiency, pliability, and sustainability.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was already on the rise pre-pandemic. The number of enterprises employing AI had already grown by 270 percent over the four years prior to 2019. By the end of 2019, just before COVID reared its ugly head, 63 percent of companies that implemented AI reported revenue increases from its adoption. The healthcare crisis only amplifies the importance of these trends.
Indeed, advances in AI, machine learning (ML), the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and material ledger are each a brick in a house that forms the most effective supply chain management technology for 2021.
ThinkIQ’s Digital Manufacturing Transformation SaaS solution offers a quantum leap in smart manufacturing. Our fact-based granular data-centric contextualized view of material flows and related providence attribute data provides unprecedented material traceability and insight that can bolster resiliency, unlock fantastic efficiencies, and facilitate the high demands of ecommerce. ThinkIQ already provides mission-critical improvements in yield, quality, safety, compliance, and brand confidence for leading brands such as General Mills, McCain, and Mars. Our clients reap tens of millions of dollars in operational savings, eliminate recalls, and enjoy enhancements in customer engagement and loyalty.
As the hard knocks of 2020 become cautionary tales that you must heed as new trends emerge in 2021, look to ThinkIQ as a guiding light. Our experts are ready to help your organization navigate the rough waters of supply chain management in 2021 and beyond.