Four trends affecting today’s supply chains

Date : 25 September 2018

Alistair, our head of supply chain insight, examines the major developments in today’s supply chains and reveals his favourite innovation.

1. New tools, data sources and automation are creating extra demands and opportunities

This means we must make decisions on new technology more quickly than ever. Do we invest now or wait for the next big thing? How do we integrate systems swiftly and effectively? And we must develop our teams’ skills – at all levels – to make sure we get the best value from our investments.

2. Trust is a vital link in the chain

Consumers are looking to put ever-greater levels of trust in the brands they buy or shop with. They’ll expect more information about where ingredients came from, how products were made and under what conditions.

3. Changes in how we shop are affecting fulfilment

Online is still a small part of food and grocery shopping but it’s having a major impact on expectations. Retailers are racing to offer new ways to get products to shoppers conveniently, but without massive cost. For many online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba, this means adding physical presence. And retailers with a large store network need to get the most from them, making them a part of their online capability.

4. Supply chains need to focus on the shopper

A supply chain which is creating value needs to put shoppers’ needs first. Do you know what’s important to them and are you delivering it? Are you improving processes and removing unnecessary costs? Supply chain teams are now collaborating more – internally and externally – to deliver this value for shoppers.

Don’t forget Brexit!

Many issues around trade and customs are unresolved. Supply chain operators are concerned about tariffs and potential disruption to cross-border trade from Brexit. Plus, we must deal with the ever-present pressure to remove cost and waste.

Automation’s a great source of visible innovation

My favourite is from Walmart. It’s introducing new conveyors into the store back-rooms to speed up the process of unloading deliveries and replenishing shelves.

Goods come off the truck and are scanned and sorted onto cages by department, ready to be put on sale more quickly than before. And any off-sale (out-of-stock) items which arrive are prioritised for immediate replenishment, improving the experience for shoppers.

But it’s not just about robots

We shouldn’t forget the less visible innovations, like improved collaborative relationships, better
systems or culture change.

We’ve got a case study in the pipeline about a great learning programme at Greencore that’s changed company culture. It’s increased employee engagement and line manager effectiveness, and reduced employee turnover. Greencore’s moved from a narrow focus on training to integrating learning into everyday life.

Alistair Balderson, Head of Supply Chain Insight, IGD

Alistair Balderson

I’m responsible for the online Supply Chain Analysis service.

We provide insight and knowledge so our users can make their supply chain functions more successful. I need to ensure we cover the right topics, mixing forward-looking thought leadership and practical inspiration for today. If you have a success story to share or want to know more about our supply chains insights, get in touch.

We also work with companies on a range of bespoke projects. If you have a question you need answering or a team development need, give us a call.

Follow me on Twitter @SupplyChain_IGD

We’re publishing our flagship research soon. Part of the IGD Futures series, it’s not just for supply chain people.

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