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Navigating the Supply Chain shift: What’s trending in 2024 and why it matters for your business! 

Andy - one of our managing consultants

Process, process, process……..

The last couple of years have seen a growing trend in the industry of “bolting on” automation or applications to business to make things work better/ faster/ cheaper (as ever pick 2!).  Looking into ’24 and beyond, we face a more financially reserved future. The time may well have come to be a bit more inward looking.

Looking at core business process around forecasting, inventory management and operational processes is time (and money) well spent. 

It will likely uncover a series of “quick wins” that will improve business resilience and allow you to get more from any assets in the supply chain, such as automation or other augmentation you’ve already invested in, for a relatively low further outlay.

Movement of goods

Volatility in transport costs, whether it’s fuel, carrier rates or ocean rates, has been a theme for the last 3 years, almost to the point where it has become an industry norm.  Reviewing all goods movements in the business, and whether they are necessary, rational and efficient is likely to be a worthwhile task. It will provoke some questions around your network design that you may need some external assistance to validate but will yield tangible benefits.

Possibly the biggest opportunity remains in the visibility space.  Understanding where goods are at any given time probably allows the best decisions to be made in the supply chain. Control tower approaches to transport have traditionally been the preserve of larger organisations but as technology has matured this is now accessible to many more businesses of all sizes with little investment.

Human factors

data usage in the supply chain

Not a topic that gets a huge amount of airtime in amongst “Big Data” and“AI”, typically as it’s not as “sexy”.  When we’re looking at a future where every penny counts, making sure the jobs our people do are easy, effective and engaging offers a potentially significant benefit in terms of being able to do more for less.  If fatigue in container unloading can be reduced, for example by using lifting assistance or rising platforms, not only is the job easier and safer for the worker, but it can be completed in significantly less time.

Physical movement of goods is always the logical first one to look at but what about back-office functions?  Could you streamline your invoice processing and checking of carrier movements through automated matching?  How much time does that save your team and what does that do for job satisfaction?  Aside from that you may end up becoming a better payer for your suppliers and therefore becoming a more valued partner, bringing with it all of the associated benefits.

A key theme that ties all these trends together is a question we at SCCG are already seeing – “how to make every element of the supply chain do more for less?” That is a really fun challenge, it allows businesses to really spend some time looking at how they work on a day-to-day basis and capture some small wins relatively quickly and understand what’s out there as longer term targets.

At the end of the day the challenge of doing more in our supply chains for less movement, less input, less cost is one as industry professionals we can all get behind. Our industry is in the limelight now like never before and 2024 presents so many opportunities for us to really “move the needle” in terms of how our businesses function without incurring large costs. 

by Andy Whiting – Managing Consultant, The Supply Chain Consulting Group

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