There is no denying it, supply chains are complex even for those involved in it.
Moving goods shouldn’t take so much time and energy from a business when their core focus is on their products, their people, their future strategy, and growth. Achieving supply chain harmony, requires measurable data, great communication between parties and clear visibility.
When talking about visibility in a supply chain, traditionally that refers to having the freedom to check at any time where cargo is. Today, full visibility in the supply chain is starting to encompass more than just product flow, and include a deeper lever overview that combines supply, demand, inventory, crisis management, waste avoidance, and more, to help brands make better decisions for future resilience and growth. Looking ahead, as businesses look into their plans to refine their strategies for 2024, here are some supply chain visibility trends to expect in the coming year.
What will be the supply chain visibility trends to expect in 2024?
- The rise of data aggregators: In the next years, the industry will see the rise of data aggregators. These types of software will aggregate data from different sources, and through new algorithms help logistics professionals with contingency resolving or their day-to-day decision-making. Some of these will feature predictive data, generated by artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the customer’s knowledge of the estimated time of arrival for their shipment. The aggregation process will be integrated, and will mix information from the vessels, cross-checking it with the weather information, various communication systems, etc. If a specific vessel goes off its scheduled timeline, aggregators will send notifications to the users, allowing time for any change of plans necessary, to deliver “best in class” visibility. The industry will see software companies combining forces with logistics providers to find the right balance between knowledge, expertise, and execution.
- Increased outsourcing: According to Allied Market Research, the global fourth-party logistics (4PL) market “was valued at $57.9 billion in 2021, and is projected to reach $111.7 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 6.7% from 2022 to 2031”. A clear sign that more companies will move to logistics outsourcing, leaving their logistics in the hands of specialised experts. Within the initiatives included in 4PL models, visibility takes centre stage. Supply chains are getting more complex and the need to better navigate their intricacies will grow. The future of visibility, provided in a “control room” type of model will be the chosen way to address future complexities and unforeseen obstacles.
- Logistics as a strategy: In the upcoming years, the mentality on supply chains will change and so will the importance of visibility. “Logistics will be a strategic asset for companies and will generate a strategic advantage in customer experience, financial performance, and ESG deliverables.” said Jacco Weterings, Global Lead Logistics Business Product Owner – NeoNav at Maersk. Businesses will see their supply chain as an important part of their business, not solely discussed by their logistics teams, but being an integral part of the company’s strategy, to be optimised, designed, and adjusted for revenue growth, expansion, and resilience to market changes.
- Higher customization: The industry will see more brands gearing up to produce on-demand goods, in smaller quantities and most importantly locally, adding more opportunities to customise said products as the consumer requires. An example of this is 3D printing for custom production, this model will be used for “enhancing the customization capabilities of conventional manufacturing systems” as the demand to provide customised products will increase. More customisations will therefore prompt changes and perhaps challenges for manufacturing organisations and their logistics.
- Incremental tech presence: The incremental rise of e-commerce and omnichannel logistics will prompt closer inbound management of raw materials, which means companies will need to extend their visibility to that part of their supply chain. This connection will help prevent any production outages and make sure raw materials are available. AI will also be used to extend visibility in this space, using publicly available data (e.g., strikes, weather changes, ETA data, etc.) and adding data from all other parts of the supply chain to come up with the best possible scenario to suggest. This trend will aim at closing the visibility and knowledge gap for all asset owners involved (truckers, carriers, etc.) and even support the trend of demand sensing, creating a demand-based forecast on the current supply chain realities using artificial intelligence and real-time data collection, to gain visibility and location intelligence.
What is in sight for the future?
Needless to say, technology – in particular artificial intelligence – will be omnipresent in the near (and far) future of supply chain visibility. Most trends that the logistics industry will see are tied to this innovative technology. Traceability, for instance, is something that consumers will be increasingly demanding. In the case of companies dealing with food and beverages, Siemens writes “companies not only need to always know where their raw materials come from, they must also know how they are processed and what happens after the product is shipped to the store. It’s best if they can show verification” to provide end-to-end traceability. This will be valuable for all types of businesses, and it will be achievable through new software and partnerships. Using online supply chain management platforms, for instance, will help track progress through the integration of real-time data insights, create reports, notify vendors, etc. in a one-stop-shop. Additionally, establishing long-term partnerships grounded in trust with integrated logistics providers will ensure ease and instant solutions in case needed. Lastly, one thing is certain: fast-paced innovation will make visibility in supply chains easier and give companies greater control over their future.