It’s people that keep the supply chain functioning. Understand key talent trends and the skills and capabilities needed to succeed.


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Finding new ways to serve customers better is more important than ever. To stay ahead of the competition, businesses face a stark choice – to lead or to lag behind. To lead requires an awareness of significant trends and their likely impacts.

Trends have a habit of rippling through industries and the businesses that operate within them, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Trend analysis helps businesses prepare for change, but it’s only useful if it prompts action.

Each trend should be viewed through multiple lenses, considering a number of potential impacts - this is where real insights emerge. For example, last year IGD highlighted the exploration of Blockchain as a key supply chain trend. Blockchain is a technology with enormous potential, but understanding it isn’t enough. We must also consider how might Blockchain might be deployed to make supply chains more resilient, responsive or customer-centric. Assessing all these impacts helps to reveal the bigger picture.

It is equally important to consider how trends might create or help solve challenges. Using the Blockchain example again, it’s sensible to question if you have the skills needed to exploit the opportunity. If not, how will you secure them?

Ultimately, effective trend analysis should help you to set a course and take the right actions to either benefit from or mitigate the impact of the trends identified.

Trends transforming the global supply chain:

The online-offline space invasion advances

For retailers that have both physical stores and online operations, the profitability of operating in both spheres remains in question. Solutions to this predicament are unlikely to please customers, so retailers continue to operate as is while waiting for others to make the first move. Retailers are making improvements where possible, including making better use of “spare” store warehouse space to assemble or consolidate online orders. 

This evolution may force a change in the way stores measure success. In the above example, a low footfall store close to a large online customer base could see its stock rise and its value to the organisation re-defined.

On the other hand, we continue to see online retailers move in the other direction, expanding their physical presence through development or acquisition. This trend resonates globally with Alibaba and doing so in Asia and Amazon and Walmart leading the way in the US. A significant driver is the desire to diversify the customer offer, but equally important is the physical infrastructure that moves goods closer to customers.

It appears then, that primarily online retailers are searching for the same end as their offline competitors – the right combination of online-offline trade. What is the answer? Expect the search to continue in 2018.

Supply chain skills to take a sideways step

Organisation, problem-solving, negotiation – these are just some of the skills it takes to succeed in the supply chain. Such skills will always be needed, but as the food and grocery industry evolves, so do the skills needed to thrive.

We know technology will play a bigger role in our personal and working lives. It is being used to carve out growth where opportunities seem limited. Primarily, this happens when technology is used to do things differently. So, what does this mean for individuals in supply chain roles? Operating in and adding value to a department heavily influenced by technology requires expertise in change and project management as well as a broad network, which will take time to cultivate.

At the same time, businesses need to be proactive to prevent a de-coupling of the required and available resource. Intimate knowledge of the business strategy, skills gap analysis and securing budget will help businesses activate plans at the right time.

Crunch time for cyber security

The digitalisation of organisations and the wider supply chain continues, with many investing in Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems capable of connecting teams and individuals.

The cloud is an increasingly popular place to store information. The fast, flexible access it offers is helping to pave the way for smarter ways of working. But digitised “things” are windows into businesses, and the more we digitalise, the greater the cyber threat, both from a risk perspective – how likely you are to be targeted? As well as from an impact perspective – the extent of damage an attack can cause.

The global nature of such threats and the speed at which they spread blindsided many organisations in 2017, inflicting huge financial damage. NotPetya and WannaCry are two examples of destructive ransomware attacks that struck.

NotPeyta infected computers in more than 100 countries, disrupting hundreds of thousands of computers used by organisations and institutions. It’s primary aim being to disrupt national infrastructure. WannaCry was the first example of a truly global ransomware attack. It encrypted data on computers, demanding ransom payments in Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It’s estimated to have affected more than 300,000 computers in over 150 countries inflicting damage estimated in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

As a result of attacks like this and the damage they cause, expect more resource to be directed at the key area of cyber security in 2018.

The snowballing sharing economy

Fixed overheads and money tied up in assets are undesirable at the best of times. In a low-margin marketplace, they are intolerable. But there is another way and against this backdrop, and its appeal is growing.

Sharing has occurred in logistics for years, with businesses with close relationships making tactical decisions to share assets on a relatively small scale. Until recently, we’ve lacked the capability to “share” assets on a larger scale, but technology is moving things on.

The sharing economy model allows businesses to operate on demand, putting customer satisfaction at the heart of an operation, but it does require a shift in mindset. Working with others opens a world of opportunity to create value, which it isn’t possible to unlock alone.

This trend is making industry expertise and connections less important, with the technology doing the legwork. Think Uber or Lyft - a well-designed, scalable piece of software that delivers significant cost savings is a compelling proposition. This is what powers the sharing economy and it looks set to take-off in 2018.

These four significant trends are what we predict will influence the supply chain over the coming months. Have you performed your own trends analysis? If so, bear in mind that identifying trends is the first step and the actions you take to address and prepare for opportunities is where the value is.

We’ll be tracking these trends in 2018, producing research and insight to help you capitalise on them. Be sure to visit Supply Chain Analysis to keep up with all the latest developments.

Chris Irish

Chris Irish

Supply Chain Insight Manager

This report highlights four key supply chain trends that will emerge and develop in 2018. It also assesses how the trends IGD identified at the beginning of last year are impacting the supply chain today.

January: the month when people flock to sign up for the gym, go on a health kick and start wondering when spring will arrive.

It’s also the time when we’re making personal development plans for the year. For 2018, why not add something a bit different?

ECR Mentoring: a unique opportunity

ECR Mentoring is an award-winning personal development programme run by IGD and a team of industry representatives for people in supply chain. It’s a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth that gives participants a broader understanding of the supply chain and best of all, it’s free.

How it works

You’ll be paired with someone from another, non-competing business in the industry – usually in a retailer:supplier partnership.
If you’re a mentee, we’ll match you with a supply chain leader from another business. They’ll bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to share with you.

For mentors, your partner will be someone who’s a rising star in their business- a future supply chain leader. You’ll have the opportunity to listen to their challenges, shape their development and offer open and honest advice.

Together, you work on development goals, whether that’s getting more insight into supply chain, improving leadership skills or career development.

Inside your industry; outside your organisation

It all comes down to this: you’re in the same industry, speaking the same language and facing similar challenges. But you have a unique connection to someone outside your organisation. You can have truly open and honest conversations without your day jobs getting in the way.

Don’t just take our word for it– hear from some of this year’s participants on what makes ECR Mentoring special for them:

What next?

If you’d like to nominate members of your team, or you’re interested in being a mentor or mentee, register your interest and we’ll be in touch with more information.

In collaboration with the Retail Grocery Advisory Board,GS1 UK has created ProductDNA:hub, an independent and consistent method of sharing product data for suppliers and retailers.

Standardising to create efficiency

ProductDNA:hub covers over 150 product attributes, including ingredients, weight, dimensions, nutritional values and allergen information. Brands and suppliers own the data, and retailers have easy access to the information, ensuring that shoppers are able to receive accurate and up to date information about their products.

Implementing in early 2018

ProductDNA:hub is operated by GS1 UK and follows 12 companies - Co-op, Itsu, L’Oréal, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Ocado, PepsiCo, P&G, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Waitrose – all signing an industry charter earlier this year, committing to adopt a single product data and image service. Members of the group will begin implementing productDNA:hub in early 2018, ahead of the full launch for retailers, brands and suppliers later in the new year.

Combatting inaccurate and unreliable data

Gary Lynch, Chief Executive of GS1 UK, said: “Retailers and suppliers have spent years wrestling with the challenges of managing and sharing product data and images. Historically, there has been a huge problem with incompatible systems and multiple processes. This has led to inaccurate and unreliable data across the retail sector, which has affected the shopper experience.

“Only by working together has the industry finally been able to solve the problem with productDNA:hub, a single source of trusted product data and images for every retailer and supplier, including the smallest suppliers and start-ups.”


This report highlights four key supply chain trends that will emerge and develop in 2018. It also assesses how the trends IGD identified at the beginning of last year are impacting the supply chain today.
Discover the key capabilities that will define our future supply chain leaders.
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A practical one day workshop for all roles in suppliers, to help develop your understanding of the vital part that supply chains play in underpinning FMCG businesses.