The year ahead

From the December 2022 print edition

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.

This time of year, everyone wants to make some sort of list. New Year’s resolutions, gift lists, naughty-versus-nice lists – whatever else, this season is about taking account of our lives and the world. The year’s end is a good time to reflect not only on what has just passed, but also to consider what the New Year holds. This is as true in supply chain as anywhere else. As 2022 winds down and the New Year looms, here are trends likely to gain traction.

Sustainability and ESG
For supply chains, sustainability has been a ‘nice-to-have’ concept, rather than a business imperative. That has changed. Pressure from consumers and regulatory bodies means businesses now embrace sustainability in their supply chains and promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. This will no doubt continue.

Labour shortages
The pandemic exacerbated labour shortages across many sectors, supply chain included. Other ongoing structural issues, like inflation and an aging workforce, have worsened the situation. Yet there are steps that can ease labour woes: upskilling programs, automated processes, and reviewing retention practices can help.

Technology adoption
Due to these labour shortages, many industries are looking to technology and automation to handle tasks previously done by people. Yet technology shouldn’t replace human beings entirely. People can be re-skilled to use the technology, or to work alongside robots rather than see themselves
displaced (hence the term ‘co-bot’). It’s also important that organizations don’t adopt all the technology they can simply because it’s available.

Rather, identify a problem then look to technology for potential solutions.

Online learning gained popularity during the pandemic. Online education opportunities were a good option while we all worked to limit our in-person contacts. Going forward, we’ll likely see more live business events. This includes conferences offering education opportunities. It pays to attend these events to further one’s knowledge of the field.

Nearshoring and friend-shoring
Geopolitical conflict, climate and weather challenges, pandemics, and other issues can strain global supply chains. Concepts like nearshoring, onshoring, and friend-shoring have been discussed as ways to buffer potentially fragile global links. These practices aren’t risk free. For example, they could raise costs, depending on which locations are chosen to replace riskier options. Used strategically, nearshoring may lower exposure to disruption.

To add some seasonal cheer, some things have improved. For example, supply chain bottlenecks have eased, and there’s more volume going faster. And whatever else, supply chain professionals are experts in dealing with disruption and the unknown. That’s something to be thankful for going into 2023.