November 2014 | Commentary | Checking In

Adapting Your Supply Chain for the Future…Now

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Expedited Shipping

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Supply chain practitioners are adept at identifying and adapting to changes in the real world, both in the long and short term. Two examples: One company is preparing its supply chain process for an anticipated explosion of products that don't exist yet, and many logistics and supply chain practitioners are dealing with satisfying consumer demand for instant delivery gratification because of the new "shipment impatience" phenomenon.

Long-term example first. Inbound Logistics recently met with IBC Advanced Alloys, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based rare metals manufacturer and distributor. The company specializes in beryllium and copper alloys, producing products the aerospace and defense industry needs to build all that futuristic sci-fi stuff that will be reality before we know it.

Given IBC's position upstream in the supply chain, it's an indicator of where change driven by the Internet of Things is taking us. Notably, electronics and circuit board manufacturers are locking up rare metal suppliers now, and streamlining supply chain operations for change that won't be a reality for years. Why? Because the expectation is that the Internet of Things will cause an explosion in demand for circuit boards that bring sci-fi reality to life. Machines talking to machines require sophisticated chipsets that sap rare metal reserves, which calls for global speed in delivery.

IBC realizes the world is changing, and is taking steps now to fold that change into its supply chain operations. The velocity of change should impact supply chain planning for the future…right now.

The short-term real-world example of a supply chain adapting to change is the fairly recent behavioral phenomenon of consumer shipment impatience. As a consumer, how many times have you made an online buy based on how fast a vendor could deliver, even if the transportation cost was higher? Ever been left dissatisfied when an e-tailer missed your delivery expectations? Today, many businesses exhibit the same consumerish behavior, and don't seem to care that much about geographical limitations on immediate delivery either. Sourcing from the East? I don't care, I need it now. Selling to China? They don't care, they want it now.

That consumer expectation for speed bleeds over into commercial dealings and impacts supply chain operations. Practitioners have been adept at adjusting to this change by using nearsourcing, omni-channel, and expedited solutions.

There's no stopping innovation, nor new customer demands based on change in the world. As a supply chain practitioner, take the time to look into the future, visualize where change might take your operations, and plan accordingly. The future will be here before you know it. Velocity of supply chain change, meet velocity of change.

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