Supply Chain Digital recently published an interesting piece on three core trends impacting UK supply chain skills in 2014 where they noted that, even across the Atlantic, globalization is taking a new spin.
According to the article, complex supply networks are now deployed to offset inventory risk, balancing low production costs of far away places with short-lead time replenishment from factories closer to market. This allows for an initial order to be made in the Far East and then supplemented by more local sources if sales demand. This allows the buyer to balance cost vs. lead time / stock out / quality risk and indicates that, like the US, the UK is now focussing more on total cost of ownership and optimizing the total supply chain cost and not just the landed cost (even though the transportation costs from Eastern Europe and parts of Asia are much less for them then the transportation costs their North American counterparts need to bear). It’s a good sign, and SI has always maintained that the right sourcing methodology is best-cost country sourcing, and that often means, when the full life-cycle cost (and risk) is analyzed, home-country sourcing is the way to go.
The need to be local is further emphasized by the evolving purchase patterns of the local consumer. E-commerce is being widely adopted and the Amazon effect is taking hold. Consumers want to shop at home, get the goods delivered to their homes, and if something is broken, return the goods from their homes. This is forcing retailers and distributors to adapt to complex and challenging operating models as they need to not only manage the home-delivery process but the home-return process, often getting products back to the factory from which they came for repair, refurbishment, or recycling (as strict laws in the EU, such as RoHS and WEEE, often prevent outright disposal of anything with electronic components).
Finally, it all comes together in the last trend which revolves around the need for a broader skill-set to manage the broad nature of today’s Supply Management initiatives — initiates that are hugely complex in nature and require Supply Management professionals to know how to manage suppliers, production facilities and freight movements across a multitude of countries and time-zones. It’s not easy, but it can be fun!