Supply Chain and Transport Planning: The new trends

26 Apr, 2021 | Transport Planning

The economic crisis due to Covid 19 has forced all market players to rethink the logic and dynamics of the entire supply chain as well as transport planning.
Predicting the unpredictable was impossible. Readjusting logistics and transport operations, also in light of the changing purchasing habits of consumers, has become the challenge to react quickly to the change of an entire sector.

Supply Chain Management and Transport Planning: Looking at the past to interpret the future

Before defining the 2021 trends for the supply chain and transport planning, it is advisable to take a step back and analyze the factors of change that have characterized the recent past. 2020 was a particularly challenging year for the business world, having to deal with the effects of the pandemic globally. The sudden increase in demand, particularly concerning basic necessities, and the multiplication of restrictive constraints due to anti-Covid regulations have represented a factor of enormous stress for manufacturing companies and logistics operators around the world

The reaction to the sudden changes in 2020 can be identified as three main factors: the explosion of
e-commerce logistics, the affirmation of the “just-in-time” paradigm as an attempt to govern the unpredictability of “last minute” risk, and the digital acceleration as a process to support the creation of a flexible and resilient supply chain. If 2020 was the year of rapid responses to sudden change and the unpredictability of events, 2021 should be the year of normalization of the crisis, with increasingly less improvised responses and more efficient services to accommodate new buying habits and the changing needs of the consumers.

Supply chain and transport planning: What are the possible trends for 2021?

Research published by Gartner titled “Gartner Research: Macro Trends Affecting the Transportation Management System Market” offers important insights into the current trends that are influencing the purchasing process for transportation management and planning systems.

Analyzing the needs of logistics and supply chain players is equivalent to interpreting the needs of an entire sector that seeks answers to the crisis by relying on the paradigm of decision intelligence and decision support systems. Direct experience in the field, adoption of data-driven strategies, and the use of advanced analytics as the solution and key to interpreting change are configured as the perfect combination to face the challenges of supply chain and transport planning for 2021.

The technological component and “the Amazon effect”

The technological evolution will certainly be a constant trend in supply chain and transport planning in 2021. Managing a business without relying on advanced technological systems that assist and support managers in the decision-making process is now unimaginable. Additionally, complicating the situation on the demand side is Amazon, which has contributed (perhaps unwittingly?) to the increase in consumer expectations. Industry experts call it the “Amazon effect”. Now that the world knows that shipping in 2 days is possible for any type of goods, everyone expects very fast delivery times from every retailer, not just Amazon.

Factors such as customer experience and the implementation timing of logistics operations are becoming increasingly important in redesigning the supply chain according to a much faster and more adaptive logic than in the past. When choosing the right tool to endure changes, decision making no longer focuses only on the current features of available softwares, but rather on a combination of their functionality and on efforts to expand partnerships and service capabilities. Freight forwarders want a transport management system that can grow with their needs and meet new challenges in an uncertain market.

From the last mile to the last meter: When the product reaches the consumers’ homes

The exponential growth of web purchases through e-commerce has further reduced the distance between the product and the final consumer. 2021 will still be the year of e-commerce—according to estimates for 2021, e-commerce will generate a volume of business equivalent to 4.5 trillion dollars on a global scale with a consequent rethinking of product delivery logic. If the game between the various logistics players before the pandemic was played in the efficiency of the last mile, which was the final phase of the supply chain process that brought a product within the reach of consumers at the point of sale, 2021 will bring the various operators of the sector to redefine the strategy focusing on the last meter, which is the delivery of the product to the consumers’ homes. It is clear that enhancing Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) business models will increasingly become a priority.

Companies will have to be able to control the entire supply chain, from production to final delivery, developing solutions for the last meter that also optimize reverse logistics activities through the adoption of technologies for e-commerce that can face the multitude of options and product variants that customers want. In B2B as well as B2C, this means that companies must be able to manage direct shipments through supply chain management software. This will allow retailers to sell goods to customers without actually having the goods in stock but being able to view and find them within the supply chain.

All-around sustainability and green approach:
The future of the supply chain

The topic of sustainability, not just environmentally speaking but also, in particular, systemically speaking, will continue to characterize the way we think about supply chain and transport planning for all of 2021. The new distribution formulas must therefore not only take into consideration the “old” business logic based on the exclusive relationship between costs and benefits that render the supply chain economically sustainable but also reorganize the strategies according to a green approach that highly considers the impact of transport on the environment. The new regulations regarding emissions resulting from shipping and other potential environmental risks associated with production and distribution place the use of

green technology as an avant-garde driver in the innovations of supply chain and transport planning that will characterize all of 2021. But the topic of sustainability doesn’t only involve the environment. Social sustainability will also be a key aspect to consider when rethinking the logic of the supply chain. This is because the high rate of employee turnover and an increasingly competitive labor market are forcing, in particular, logistics companies to refocus the attention on the heart of the operations, or more specifically, the warehouse staff who will be increasingly sought after in the job market.

A flexible and resilient supply chain: The real answer to change

Big data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, and decision intelligence platforms: it would be unthinkable for the market players’ toolbox to lack the presence of these combined elements. The fierce competition at the global scale forces many companies to face risks of different nature and entities, potentially capable of subjecting the entire supply chain under a crisis and negatively affecting corporate performance and competitiveness. The supply chain of the future must therefore be able to react in a versatile and flexible manner in response to 

sudden changes, managing the variations in volume and demand in the best way possible. The winning attitude will increasingly be data-driven: the sharing of data between the various players in the supply chain allows each of them to always have what’s happening within the supply chain under control through the integration of different types of data and on different dimensions to support operational and strategic decisions.

With this in mind, Ublique, Spindox’s decision intelligence platform, is an effective tool to support business decisions. Thanks to its vertical modules dedicated to the supply chain, warehouse optimization, and transport planning, it represents an important factor of innovation on an operational and strategic level, ensuring excellence in service and the management of costs and risks related to the entire data-driven supply chain, as attested by clients who have already integrated it into their companies.

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