Continually improving efficiency in the supply chain — the lifeblood of any business — assures on-time delivery of products and services to meet rising consumer expectations. In addition, supply chain innovations continue to accelerate as corporations seek well-educated leaders with specialized training to complement their business acumen.
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP) Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Supply Chain online program delves into the most important developments in the industry, including these five trends:
- Supply Chains are Becoming More Sustainable
Driven by consumer demand and government regulations, products and processes are getting greener and more sustainable. However, this is not motivated purely by changing values; more than 60% of consumers do not mind paying a premium for sustainable products. To deliver on this demand, businesses are transitioning to forms of renewable energy, including wind, hydropower and solar — all of which are receiving massive infusions of government and private investment.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. currently offers 3.1 million sustainable/renewable energy jobs, with 73% in the private sector. The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business reports that sustainable products grew 5.6 times faster than non-sustainable products in 2018.
Some of the trending eco-friendly practices include reduction of greenhouse emissions, a switch from plastic to smaller cardboard packaging, energy management systems that use timers and gauges to reduce waste of resources and increased use of electric and solar-powered fleet vehicles.
- Movement from Linear to Circular Supply Chains
The green and sustainable movement is driving a shift in the fundamental architecture of the supply chain from linear to circular. Rather than concluding the supply chain at the end user, the chain continues back around by recycling and reusing materials or refurbishing finished goods that can be resold. While the U.S. still faces many challenges with its recycling systems, many companies are making an effort to help goods find new life and develop more sustainable product cycles.
- Digitization of the Complete Supply Chain
In the same way that enterprise resource management (ERP) systems digitally integrate business operations into a whole, corporate supply chain systems are in the process of digitization and integration. Once implemented, a corporation should expect to have a smarter, more efficient ecosystem with greater communication and transparency between business units.
Similarly, digitization in the supply chain greatly reduces or eliminates paperwork and manual processes. Smart software collects data that enables decision-makers to streamline processes and develop smarter models that address current shortcomings.
- AI and Robotic Automation
Automation, through artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, is a driving force across industries, bringing greater productivity and efficiency while reducing human error. In 2019, American companies ordered 16,488 robots, valued at a total of $869 million, and this trend will only get stronger as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
AI algorithms automatically perform many of the basic operations in supply chain management. These technologies also identify patterns in data to streamline the supply chain and drive more intelligent business decision-making. Robotics reduces the need for human labor to complete manual tasks in manufacturing, product delivery and even warehousing tasks such as stocking and picking. By freeing human minds from manual labor, companies can deploy their employees in ways that utilize their training and expertise.
- Agile and Elastic Supply Chains
By applying AI and machine learning technologies, the supply chain will better respond to and absorb drastic and even sudden changes in the landscape, including pandemics and natural disasters. This is happening through an emerging discipline known as ‘agile’ or ‘elastic’ logistics. With the help of supply chain management (SCM) concepts, organizations are increasingly able to expand or contract to better anticipate and prepare for future events.
Another aspect of agile supply chains is manufacturers and distributors’ increasing ability to personalize shipments to larger customers. Large organizations like Amazon and Walmart build this capability into their infrastructures to make themselves indispensable partners to major clients.
These are just a few of the trends that are shaping cutting-edge supply chains today. As a result, students in the UWP MBA Supply Chain program gain exposure and expertise in these areas, making them prime candidates for leadership positions in top global corporations upon graduation.