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7 Supply Chain Trends to Watch in 2021

They are trends that show the vital role of technology in the supply chain, and how its use has grown beyond inventory management and logistics.

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Supply chains make up an essential aspect of most businesses today, with 70 percent of industry professionals predicting that the supply chain will spearhead better customer service before the end of 2020. So as the year has progressed, we have seen exciting trends in the industry take shape. 

Some of these trends include adopting big data, AI, sustainability, and omnichannel marketing. They are trends that go to show the vital role of technology in supply chain management. The use of such technology has grown beyond stock taking, order, and delivery. It has grown into other aspects like security and risk management, process automation, and customer service. Against this backdrop, let's look at the seven best supply chain management trends to watch for 2020.

1. More Agility

For supply chains to function at its best, there needs to be more flexibility and agility. It will help them respond to changes within short notice. The agile trend in supply chain management has shifted from traditional supply chain methods. Such methods focused more on the familiar. As we have seen in recent times, unforeseen events do occur. With agility, companies can prove they can cope with natural disasters or pandemics. An agile supply chain can also help you navigate scarcity and disruption. Supply chain managers can predict and identify potential problems and solutions. Thus, they can respond to disruptions in production, supply, and delivery more swiftly

2. Sustainability Is Becoming Essential

Another notable trend in supply chain management is the advancement of green logistics. Besides its benefit to us and our environment, it is cost-effective, promotes brand goodwill, and increases customer loyalty. For example, 66 percent of millennials are more likely to patronize a company with sustainable and eco-friendly culture. Furthermore, brands that advocate for sustainability grow 5.6 times faster than brands that don't.

Before now, we have seen bulky packages using several boxes during shipping. But in 2020, the packaging is shrinking. The minimal means of packaging is not only eco-friendly, but shippers can also reduce costs. Thus, more supply chain businesses need to check their carbon footprint. It will help them align better with the sustainability trend.

3. Blockchain

Customers love same-day delivery, but this can be difficult for logistics. Thus, blockchain technology in supply chain management comes in handy. By cutting out intermediaries, blockchain takes you straight to your customers. The blockchain technology system helps distribute digital data transparently and securely. Vendors, shipping lines, customers, and logistics firms can all collaborate using a single platform. Every added data or information is in the form of blocks stored in a single location.

And they are kept secure using encryption and a time-stamp ledger linking new information to the existing chain. Besides being safe and limiting fraud, Blockchain systems are cost-effective, transparent, and fast. Also, it enables less disruption in customer service, and the supply chain can be completely paperless. It likewise allows supply chain managers to detect likely issues before they occur. Businesses are now adopting blockchain technology for their online payment platforms.

Businesses are adopting blockchain technology for their  online payment platforms. For instance, writing services review websites like Online Writers Rating can use blockchain for a safe payment platform. It enables safer and swift transactions for clients who want to pay for their writing services.

4. IoT and Big Data

As IoT advances, businesses can automatically manage their inventory and stock movement better. The system works by collecting big data into a central system for analysis. From the outcome, supply chains can derive valuable insights. Big data application in the supply chain improves operations, hiring processes, or marketing strategies.

5. Omnichannel is the New Norm

Ultimate customer experience is what your customers expect. It entails providing them with a direct and convenient shopping experience. Whether they are shopping online or in-store, your business needs convenient omnichannel services. With simultaneous purchase and delivery, there's a greater demand for logistics. But omnichannel supply chains enable your customers to have a smooth experience. 

6. AI and Machine Learning

AI and ML technology has brought about several new processes in supply chains. Large scale automation is one of them. Machine learning can read, identify, and replicate complex content, patterns, and procedures. Rather than have your employees stuck on doing repetitive tasks, AI automation handles all that.

By 2019 end, 37 percent of organizations had implemented AI, and in 2020 the numbers are poised to grow. Businesses that make use of AI technology in their supply chain have seen improvements. Such improvements include inventory management, staff productivity, supplier selection process, and customer experience.

Your business has a higher chance of efficiency with automation since it eliminates human errors. These tools can help automate processes like machine response to client requests and ensure all papers are error-free.

7. The Spread of SCaaS 

Several businesses handle their supply chain activities in-house. However, we are now seeing more companies adopt the Supply Chain as a Service (SCaaS) business model. So, they now outsource activities like inventory management, logistics, and packing. 

There's no doubt that processes have become faster, smarter, customer-centric, and sustainable. AI, blockchain, and IoT technologies will enable supply chains to automate and simplify operations. The trends on security, transparency, market prediction, big data analytics, flexible and agile supply chain processes will continue to grow as the year closes. Being informed and ahead of supply chain trends will help minimize supply chain disruptions. And it will help enhance your business's productivity and efficiency.

Frank Hamilton is a blogger and translator, specializing in digital marketing and self-education.

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