Earlier this year, we spoke to 16 experts about the future of supply chain and where it’s headed. Industry disruptions aren’t slowing down, technology continues to evolve, and buying behaviors and expectations are changing—all of which affects the supply chain.
Commerce used to be straightforward. But shopping today extends beyond store hours and shelf space. The Internet has made it a 24/7 exercise.
From creating a website to selling online to meeting consumer demands for ever-faster and more-affordable delivery, the Internet has changed the fundamentals of retail. And it continues to. Amazon has been the clear leader in defining eCommerce and pushing the boundaries of what once was inconceivable. But now, many forward-thinking retailers are turning to new technologies and service providers to get a foothold and catch up.
- Karl Siebrecht, Co-founder & CEO, FLEXE
Dale Rogers, ON Semiconductor Professor of Business, Arizona State University
Some people still think of supply chain as a business niche, with limited strategic value. But, companies today need a fully modernized and integrated supply chain to be successful. It is no exaggeration to say the supply chain is now the heart of a company.
Chapter One: An Industry Disrupted: Embracing the New Reality
Neil Ackerman, Senior Director, Global Supply Chain Advanced Planning and Innovation, Johnson & Johnson
The ongoing transformation of our industrial supply chain is hardly the first of its kind. What’s different about today’s modernization is its unprecedented speed. We are still in the early phases, but the supply chain will evolve from a clunky, reactive, operational process into a strategic profit driver, woven deep within the fabric of every competitive business.
Tina Sharkey, CEO, Brandless
Companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort to acquire each customer. You can’t just let your customer experience drop off when the order hits the distribution center. You want to sustain a great relationship with your customer all the way to them unboxing their order. Today, logistics providers need to do more than just deliver products.
Ken Ackerman, President, The Ackerman Company
In the not too distant future, we could see major changes not just in retailing and transportation, but also manufacturing and real estate. By inventing new ways of moving goods and allowing customers to buy stuff more conveniently, we are potentially altering the very structure of communities in ways we’ve not yet identified.
Chapter Two: Organizing the Chaos: Evolving Technology Drives Efficiency, Visibility, and Results
John Heller, Chief Operating Officer, S’well
Supply chain management and logistics cover a lot of ground: meeting with manufacturers, product planning, production and tooling capacity, inventory planning, third-party logistics relationships and fulfillment operations, and managing overseas production. But the best supply chain managers are also data analysts at heart. All the answers that you need are in your data somewhere.
Jason Ivy, Senior Manager, Supply Chain & Logistics Industry, Impinj
We are moving closer to getting real-time location data at the goods-level on every item sold, enabling better consumer experiences and vast efficiency gains throughout the supply chain. Eventually, each product’s “digital life” will begin as soon as it is made, enabling real-time visibility from start to finish.
Jeff Metersky, VP Customer Success Strategy, LLamasoft, Inc.
Great supply chain designers balance multiple objectives: financial considerations, customer service levels, risk management, sustainability initiatives. It takes discipline to focus on short-term operational needs without losing sight of strategic long-term goals.
Rich Thompson, International Director, Global Supply Chain & Logistics Solutions, JLL
There’s quite a lot of industrial space that could be made available if it were allocated more efficiently. As information technology gets integrated into warehouses and other supply chain components, it allows companies to monitor inventory more effectively, enabling a more flexible, adaptive business model.
Chapter Three: From Chaos Comes Order: Emerging Business Models
Ben Conwell, Senior Managing Director, eCommerce and Electronic Fulfillment, Cushman & Wakefield
Retailers are having to process customer orders 24/7, all while trying to manage the optimal inventory selection in physical stores. And they better get the order right, because their competition is just a click away.
Kurt Beckett, Deputy CEO, NW Seaport Alliance
The industrial “Internet of everything” is just in its infancy, and companies that can compel the supply chain to share and analyze integrated data—without compromising their own commercial strategy and interest—will find that ports, shippers, and other logistics providers can deliver even better service.
Steve Callaway, Managing Director, Head of Global Customer Solutions, Prologis
Everyone from pure online retailers to department stores is trying to figure out how to deliver goods over multiple channels while maintaining a consistent customer experience. How can I have the right product in the right place to get it to customers in two days, maybe in one day— possibly even the same day?
Tim Vaio, Veteran Supply Chain Executive
Much has been written about the demise of traditional retailers, but it’s premature to write that obituary. The ones that succeed will do so by finding ways to meet the rising expectations of customers efficiently. To get there, they will need a foundation that will help them stay nimble and flexible in the years ahead.
Chapter Four: The Human Element: Meeting Customer Demands and the Supply Chain Professionals that Make It Possible
Bob Spieth, Chief Operations Officer, QVC Group
eCommerce success will be a direct result of how your business supports customer experience and meets demands. We’re in a world where creating a unique and differentiated customer experience is key. Luckily, we have the tools to deliver much more value to customers by innovating in the supply chain.
Kevin Kryscio, Senior Director, Supply Chain Distribution & Logistics, Ace Hardware
For many organizations, the tools are running faster than their readiness to use them . They still need to connect the dots and learn how to apply the information to their business. Otherwise, you have a fancy tool kit that can’t help you serve your customers the way you want.
Ryan Gorecki, Senior Director, Innovel Solutions
Computers, technology, robotics, and data are fantastic tools for improving logistics and fulfillment performance. But, we will always need to balance those tools with the human component. The most successful supply chain operators will be those that can identify and deploy them both.
Scott McWilliams, EVP, Strategic Development, Geodis
The supply chain industry faces extraordinary pressure to deliver products faster than ever before while also holding down costs. To do both of those things simultaneously will require relentless innovation and major improvements in efficiency. And we have to achieve all that in one of the tightest labor markets in history.