The supply chain landscape is a rapidly evolving ecosystem, and as we step into 2024 and beyond, there are many trends that are fueling transformation and change. After years of significant supply chain disruptions (which led to massive financial losses around the globe), conditions are improving and supply chains appear more resilient. The supply chain landscape is also experiencing a technological revolution, which is driven by things such as artificial intelligence and other digital tools.
Instead of keeping things “status quo” in an inventory-based business in the new year, leaders can revamp and overhaul their supply chain process. By turning to the latest technologies, tools, and practices, decision-makers can improve their operations, make strides toward their goals, and stay ahead of their peers.
If you want to improve your supply chain process in 2024, here’s everything you need to know.
To understand where the supply chain process can go in 2024, it’s important to take a quick look at the current situation. The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges for inventory-based operations, mostly fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, experts say the pandemic “dislodged the global supply chain,” leading to congested ports, delayed ocean freight timelines, product and worker shortages, and price spikes.
While this began with the pandemic’s start, many of these impacts are only now leveling out. 2023 brought vast improvements to the supply chain, with the bottlenecks and delays easing “remarkably quickly.”
Where does this leave inventory-based businesses in this equation? Many business leaders say that they’re prioritizing increasing resilience through different avenues, based on all of the lessons that were learned in the previous years. It’s also clear that there are many technological advancements impacting the supply chain. AI is one in particular: research shows that applying AI-driven forecasting to supply chain management can reduce errors by up to 50%.
What this all demonstrates is that improving your supply chain process is paramount for two main reasons. The first is that resilience is essential. During the coronavirus, we saw how necessary resilience was, and now, many leaders are prioritizing it going forward. The second reason is that technology is driving innovation in this industry. If a business is not taking advantage of the technological tools available, its competitors will. Instead of being left behind by trends shaping the industry, inventory-based businesses can focus on innovation and adoption in 2024.
There are several emerging trends in the supply chain industry that we can expect to influence and reshape the landscape in the coming weeks and months.
These trends include:
Inventory-based businesses are increasingly leaning on real-time technological capabilities to get a 360-degree view of their operations. Instead of working on a delayed timeline or waiting for system updates, leaders can get real-time insights into what’s happening with their inventory. This enhanced inventory visibility gives decision-makers instant answers to their most pressing questions, such as what they need to buy or what hasn’t shipped/sold.
Demand forecasting is progressively getting more advanced, and therefore more integral to precise inventory-based operations. Today’s forecasting tools are increasingly accurate, and they use sophisticated advancements to improve inventory management and supply chain operations. For example, modern demand forecasting tools can utilize different forecast hierarchies, can take special events into account, and can automatically adjust for promotions.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping many industries, and the supply chain is no different. This technology can be used in various parts of the supply chain process, and it can be used to classify and analyze information, generate ideas, and quickly summarize massive amounts of data quickly.
One example of how artificial intelligence is being used in the supply chain is demand planning. We’re already seeing many applications of artificial intelligence in demand planning, where it’s being used to anticipate stock and inventory needs, enhance forecast accuracy, and optimize inventory management.
Aside from demand planning, there are several other prominent areas where AI can be used in the supply chain. This includes inventory management, route optimization, warehouse automation, predictive maintenance, and supplier selection.
Many supply chain trends and technologies are contributing to the goal of increased overall visibility. Research shows us that just a small fraction of businesses in this space believe they have “complete” visibility of their operations, while 92% of global supply chain leaders say they’re investing in “visibility platforms.” Enhanced visibility comes from deploying better supply chain technologies and digital solutions, which accurately monitor, facilitate, and forecast operations overall.
We’ve talked about why resilience is important, and how it’s becoming a priority for inventory-based businesses. It’s clear that this trend of resilient operations is an undercurrent that influences the way these businesses operate.
For example, leaders might choose to deploy new systems and technologies that have advanced inventory analytics features, so decision-makers can know about important stock updates as early as possible, such as stockouts. This can lead to a more resilient operation because leaders won’t get caught off-guard by certain stock-related scenarios which can influence the customer experience.
Forecasting is also invaluable for improved resiliency. Today’s advanced forecasting models can even take events such as natural disasters into consideration. A business using these models is more likely to be resilient in unpredictable scenarios.
Overhauling your supply chain process can seem like a big lift. You might have to deploy innovative technologies, get your team trained in new systems, and adopt the most recent industry-standard practices.
Here are some best practices for revamping your supply chain processes that you can use to ensure your overhaul is as successful as possible.
Conducting a thorough audit of your current supply chain processes involves closely scrutinizing your workflows, identifying areas where bottlenecks occur, and identifying processes that are prone to errors. You can use KPIs and metrics to assess performance and to pinpoint specific areas that you’d like to improve upon in 2024.
There’s no beating around the bush: modern supply chain businesses need advanced technological solutions. For example, there are advanced supply chain management systems available that enhance collaboration and accessibility, while providing tools that help with predictive analytics.
Aside from supply chain management systems, there are automated tools that can optimize the decision-making process, by giving you succinct insights based on substantial amounts of data.
Embracing technology in your inventory-based business can help alleviate workloads, improve accuracy, and lead to happier customers (due to better service levels).
The suppliers and distributors in your supply chain network play a vital role in the way your operation functions. For example, if your deliveries are consistently delayed, you’re going to have long lead times, which could impact customer satisfaction.
Your supplier network plays an integral role in your operations, and because of this, you can take steps to strengthen relationships. Double down on efforts to collaborate with suppliers who provide the best service, and lean on your inventory management solution to provide you with that information. For example, StockIQ provides you with supplier tracking features, so you can monitor supplier reliability and lead times.
Whenever you’re deploying changes in your organization there are team members that will be early adopters and champions, and others who might be slower to adopt the change. Research shows that while most executives feel they pay attention to the needs of their team members when introducing innovative technology, there’s a gap in how many employees agree and the employee experience can suffer.
To best facilitate any change in your inventory-based organization in the coming year, be sure to offer training on any new digital systems or skills that they’ll be using. Also collect and utilize employee feedback on your change initiatives, so you can judge how to successfully facilitate them.
The supply chain process in 2024 is due for an overhaul. New technologies, practices, and processes can fuel transformation in your inventory-based business. If you’re ready for a comprehensive supply chain planning suite that can help facilitate the revamp, you’re looking for this year, then StockIQ has you covered.
StockIQ is a supply chain planning suite designed to improve your inventory efficiency through enhanced visibility. You can be prepared for the future with advanced forecasting algorithms, ensure you have the right inventory, and take control of your inventory with advanced inventory planning dashboards.
Find out all of the ways StockIQ can help you improve your operations this year by contacting us today.