5 Key Supply Chain Trends to Look for in 2021
As starts to a new decade go, the 2020's has to be up their with the most unbelievable in recent times, yet 2021 is now coming into sight, and TLME has put together a list of the key trends to look for in the supply chain after the challenges of 2020.
While the World Health Organisation is hopeful of a working vaccine by the end of 2020, such a solution still requires a huge roll-out that brings its own difficulties.
Any potential vaccine would have to be moved quickly and be temperature controlled - a big ask for the supply chain given the demand would be so massive - and unlikely to be disseminated around the world until the end of 2021.
This means big challenges for the supply chain in 2021 and also brings us to the first key trend.
1. Home Working Will Continue
The notion of people beginning to work from home more and more is hardly revolutionary in a digitalised world, yet nobody expected the shift to come as quickly as it did.
When we heard futurists and big tech companies talking of mass remote working, it was usually something that we'd antipate for the 2030s.
However, here we are with a global pandemic forcing workers worldwide into their homes where they must now work.
Of course, there are elements of the supply chain that need hands-on workers, yet this switch to remote working is going to change the way companies and workers think.
Henceforth, expect many workforces to never return to office-based working, as so many jobs can be done from the comfort of one's own home now.
Further to this, staff have no excuse for being late, yet simultaneously can arise later than normal because they don't have to spend money on travel - which is a win-win for both all.
2. e-Commerce is Now the Industry Leader
Similar to remote-working, e-commerce was always going to come into its own as an industry of the future, yet this process has been massively expidited following covid-19.
As anybody is business knows, it's hard to get people to change their habits, but once they're changed, people sink into new ways of doing things and that becomes the new normal.
How common was it for us to shop for clothes, food and goods 20 years ago? Not very.
Yet today it's not uncommon, and post-lockdown, it is the new normal.
This is why consultancy firm Kearney Middle East has stated that the GCC e-commerce sector is set to be worth US$50 billion by 2025.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics
Now I know you've read about this a hundred times as a trend, but you may have ascertained we're building something of a theme through this piece.
AI has already begun to play its role in the supply chain, although at a limited capacity.
However, now we're working in an environment in which human contact has to be limited, artifical intelligence and robotics become an excellent solution.
At this point 5G was said to be widespread, although lockdowns have severely hampered its progress.
That said, we're still advancing to roll-out 5G around the world, despite it being the source for many online conspiracy theorists as the cause of coronavirus.
However despite the conspiracy theorists worries, 5G offers us the speeds we need to rejuvenate the supply chain, as well as to ensure we can move goods quickly and efficiently when the need to roll-out the vaccine comes.
5G will also be revolutionary in how ports, airports, trucks and trains communicate.
5. Hybrids, Everywhere
Finally, we come to hybrids, and hybrids in all their many yriad forms.
As prior mentioned, the roll-out of a covid vaccine requires great planning, but also a safe, stable and quick cold-chain to temperature control the cargo.
This is why big names such as DP World have begun to talk about the inevitable growth of the cold-chain alongside the traditional chain, functioning as a sort of logistical hybrid.
Equipment is another huge area for hybrid development.
In fact, if we take the key areas mentioned already - AI, 5G and home working - all of these are still very new and will most likely be implemented on dual tracks.
For instance, machinery may work via AI during downtimes to check efficacy and iron out obstacles, and via manual control at peaks.
Similarly, home working will be the norm, yet companies across the chain will likely be implementing rotas so staff are able to come into a physical place of work on rare occasions.
Other key areas of hybrid development include that of the cloud and hardware, autonomous ships and manually controlled vessels, as well as green equipment and traditionally fueled fleets.
Collectively, 2020 has slowed us down in one sense, but pushed us forward by 10 years in another.
As the old truism goes, it's not the biggest in life that survive, but those who adapt.
Read more: Is the Supply Chain Ready to Save the Day