Early Supply Chain Trends 2021

Among the most valuable lessons we have learned from a chaotic 2020 is the premium an organization can place on being proactive. Between COVID-19, natural disasters, and the typical peaks and valleys of a fiscal year, many learned the value of planning for the unexpected, recognizing trends early in their lifecycle, and the importance of having a “Plan B” when things go awry.

While the dust is still settling on the impact that significant changes created – or accelerated – in 2020, we see several significant themes emerging early in 2021. Between our own experience and learning the challenges our partners are seeing, and how we can potentially help you see the same challenges.

Challenges with Sourcing Materials

According to TheFabricator, the combination of increased demand and a tightened supply line has caused the price of steel to soar and caused longer lead time for manufacturers. Some have even had issues hitting their delivery dates because of the rising prices or limited availability of raw materials. What happens when your vendor calls to tell you they cannot meet a delivery date because of the steel market’s wild swings? When it comes to planning projects, it portends the importance of being flexible and having contingency plans. We like to take a proactive approach with our clients and plan for the unexpected.

A Rapid Response Required for E-Commerce

Customers are expecting faster & faster delivery as time goes on, and fulfillment centers have long been searching for processes that can assist in meeting those needs. However, the expectations have rapidly increased in conjunction with our nation’s response to curbing the spread of COVID-19. DigitalCommerce360 reports that e-commerce rose 44% in 2020 compared to the year prior, causing companies to shift their business model to accommodate a higher volume of smaller orders. How are they going about doing that? Are they looking for short-term solutions or thinking holistically about flexible, scalable solutions to prevent disruption in the next supply chain crisis? We caution those looking for the former to consider the latter, and we’d love to help you as you address these issues.

An Increased Number of Labor Challenges

As COVID-10 continued – and continues – to spread throughout the US, managers have seen an increased absenteeism level in their workplace. Some companies have moved to flex-or-remote working environments, which causes companies to increase cross-training and job sharing among their employees. After all, work has to continue even when there is a reduced labor force. So, as we advance, how do you make those roles more efficient? How can they be simpler to allow the same amount of work to happen (if not more) with less training? Should automation be an option in some areas? For an increasing number of fulfillment centers, automation is becoming an effective measure against variances caused by labor challenges.

There were many lessons learned in 2020, especially in the way companies respond to disruptions. The early trends we see in the supply chain continue to show that companies need to be flexible in their operations and proactive in planning to mitigate against potential disruptions. There will always be disruptions, so why not get ahead of them?

Proactive Planning

While we cannot say we’ve seen it all – or maybe now after a nearly-year long pandemic, we can – we certainly have experience against long lead times, volatile pricing, introducing automation, solving labor challenges, and meeting customer demands as they continue to change.

From the beginning of our project, our partners know that we are upfront in recognizing where projects could experience turbulence and potentially get off-course. By being proactive and transparent, we build trust in our clients because acting on that “Plan B” in the event of an unforeseen disruption is so much more useful than coming up with one when the problem arises.

When a project comes along, and you need a partner to help guide you through the parts of a project you know will happen, keep in mind you may need someone to help guide you through the unforeseen, impossible-to-predict aspects. With our simple, smart, and strategic approach, we are here to help!