Earlier this year, World Trade identified the following seven trends for 2012. The question is, how many are taking shape and, of the ones taking shape, how many are relevant for your supply chain. And are any missing? Let’s start by examining the seven trends WT identified.
- 3PLs are the new Jack-of-all-Trades
Apparently, demand for 3PLs to play a role in capacity strategies, to provide technologies that optimize planning and enable visibility in increasingly complex global supply chains, and to increase operational agility is increasing. In addition, some shippers are seeking to consolidate their 3PL bases to relieve an administrative burden of managing multiple providers while leveraging a larger, indirect spend pool. And, some 3PLs are offering more value-added services such as contract and custom packaging, return disposal, and even individual store deliveries.
- Mobility and the Cloud
The use of M2M technology is increasing, and more software providers are certifying the use of their solutions for off-the-shelf consumer and ruggedized devices. And some are predicting that 2012 will be a big year for “cloud supply chain”. Supply chain technology vendors will seek ways to use the cloud to facilitate application integration and data visibility, and work with material handling equipment manufacturers to bring MHE automation closer to real world application.
- Transportation Modes
There will be more adoption of intermodal transport. This is because trucking faces predicted driver shortages, potential highway user fees, and changing governmental regulations — which is making intermodal rail an increasingly compelling proposition. As a result, new intermodal facilities are being built in several U.S. locations. This option can reduce fuel costs, increase delivery speed, and decrease reliance on OTR (Over-the-Road) trucking.
- Trucking & Capacity Issues
New compliance mandates for trucking, including CSA (Carrier Safety Administration) and HOS (Hours of Service) legislation, will further increase capacity challenges in 2012.
- Partner Integration
Disparate supply chain players will come together to form partnerships and work together to benefit the entire supply chain. This is because smarter commerce requires seamless integration with all partners in the end-to-end supply chain, particularly in the complex global supply chains of today. Furthermore, the expectation is that this partnership will span the business, execution, and technology layers of the supply chain.
There is an expectation that near-sourcing will likely increase, helped by unstable oil prices, rising labor costs in China (and India), the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, and NAFTA. Plus, Central and South America (and Brazil in particular), which are often on similar time-zones, are also viable sourcing options in many industries, and reachable through land-based inter-modal transport.
According to the article, Sustainability will continue to be a focus for shippers and carriers alike, as long as there is a business benefit.
Not a bad list of trends, and some good arguments for. But what is the reality (that SI perceives)? Stay Tuned for Part II!