What is the Future of Supply Chains?

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The future of supply chains will be vastly different to supply chains past. Where once the emphasis for supply chains was upstream on such things as raw materials and production processes, the future of supply chains takes a reverse direction focussed on the downstream customer.

Technology is reinventing supply chains and customers increasingly expect a more tailored or personalised purchasing experience. Operating in this environment will require an entirely new way to engineer and manage supply chains.

To meet customer expectations, organisations will also need to build proficiency in the skills necessary to perform in these digital supply chains of the future. Cross-functional information sharing will play a key role in integrating different divisions and strategic business units within organisations.


Supply chains have experienced a shift in the forces of change. This is reflected in business strategies that are now becoming more customer-oriented in order to meet downstream consumer needs.

Customer-centric supply management and quality service will potentially be one of the most important driving forces in the future of supply chain management. Improved efficiencies in supply chains and enhanced customer service will help transform the future of supply chains to deliver greater consumer satisfaction and positive customer experiences.


Supply chain management is moving away from simply being technology-enabled, to becoming more technology-centric. Changing technology will drive integration in and between organisations to enhance visibility across supply chains.

Innovation from advancements in 3D printing and real-time IT tools, to artificial intelligence and blockchain solutions will intertwine with supply chain management, strategies and operations. Customer service tasks will increasingly be undertaken by virtual customer assistants and chatbots because they are cheaper and quicker to deploy.

Skills shortage

While technology will eliminate basic human tasks within the supply chain, there are other highly cognitive factors that require support from employees with specialist capabilities, such as content curation.

There is currently a finite pool for this talent, which puts the burden on producers to develop knowledge management systems and redefine the data science skills needed for future manufacturing operations.

Once these specialised skill-sets have been determined, supply chain managers will need to invest in training to maximise human potential. Without this, the future of supply chains will suffer from the lack of the advanced skills necessary to manage multiple supply chains.


With everything tracked via internet-connected sensors, it is harder for goods to “go missing” while in transit. When a loss does occur, it is easier for the business to determine when and where it the loss occurred.

Security is improved through this enhanced traceability and business have a greater insight into where shipments came from, where they are going and time to their destination. All of which, supports regulatory compliance, enhanced customer service and creates a better overall view of what is happening in both directions of the supply channel.

The future of supply chains

Supply chain management is changing rapidly, and organisations need to invest in analytical infrastructure to help inform decision-making.

As supply chains become increasingly digitised, businesses will seek to employ trained data scientists who are proficient in supply chain management and advanced business intelligence tools.

With the increasing importance of cross-functional alignment, supply professionals must have a proactive understanding of changes outside their traditional supply management tasks. Managers and analytical architects will need to understand the unique capabilities of the different supply chain partners, to ensure sustainability of supply channels in the coming years.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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