Supply chain trends foretell the shape of things to come

Staying on top of emerging supply chain trends is critical in today’s global marketplace. Understanding current trends enables us to stay relevant, remain competitive and manage our businesses proactively, rather than reactively.

One of the most important trends emerging is the diminishing manufacturing cost advantage that China and other countries have had over the U.S. This gap is closing due to rising wages, concerns about quality, higher U.S. productivity, a weaker dollar and other factors. What this means for the logistics and supply chain industries is that, in all probability, manufacturing will begin to relocate closer to the markets it serves, particularly in the U.S. and Mexico.

We will also see a shift in the supply chain network from a manufacturing standpoint. And, in conjunction with various transportation issues, this shift will drive distribution innovations, such as fewer empty miles and more product on trucks and on the roads — and do so in more cohesive, collaborative ways.  

Another trend we’re seeing is the increasing use of smart technologies to help us manage our supply chains. Big Data will reveal actionable steps we can take to process the enormous amount of information we are able to capture at more points in the supply chain — and turn it into meaningful, decision-making output.  

As the economy continues to recover from the economic fallout of the past few years, we will continue to see an enormous explosion of talent as a wave of highly skilled supply chain management professionals flows into the market. Universities from around the world are turning out top-tier young people who have a more global perspective and diverse skill set than their predecessors. These professionals are adding substantial value to their organizations, and making significant contributions to the bottom line.

Logistics and supply chain management are becoming core competencies in progressive, successful companies, both public and private, around the globe. This, in turn, is influencing the caliber of those who have chosen supply chain careers, producing better prepared and more capable professionals who can look forward to myriad opportunities to gain entrance to the executive suite.

These issues and others will be center stage with supply chain professionals when we gather in Denver, October 20-23, 2013 for CSCMP’s Annual Global Conference. We’ve got a terrific program lined up, including hundreds of educational sessions to choose from, many of which will address emerging trends. Topics will include alternative fuels, supply chain innovation, managing risk, sales and operations planning, warehousing, transportation and talent and leadership.

This year’s lineup of general session speakers is one of the best we’ve ever had. Keynoting the conference will be Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderón, who will talk on Expansion, Innovation and Transformation: What It Takes to Lead. Tuesday morning’s Major Session speaker will be Tesla Motors’ VP of supply chain, Peter Carlsson, with a presentation on Building a Complex Supply Chain from the Ground Up. Other not-to-miss events include the Supply Chain Exchange exhibition, Student Recruitment Day, local facility tours, networking receptions and our enormously popular Mega Sessions on Wednesday.

You’ll be interested to know that the number-one reason supply chain professionals attended last year’s conference was to be exposed to the latest industry trends. More than 3,000 people traveled to Atlanta, Ga., from all four corners of the world to learn about new processes, new systems, new thinking and creative but proven ways of managing their supply chains.

To meet the challenges ahead, it’s vital that we keep up on supply chain trends. We must read, watch and listen to what other professionals are saying and doing. And one of the most effective ways of achieving this is by connecting with peers at CSCMP conferences.

CSCMP proudly celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year. We are humbled to mark five decades of serving global supply chain management leaders by providing them with the resources, tools, connections and education to grow their companies and their careers. We will continue to aspire to even loftier goals during the next 50 years, pushing the frontiers of technology and management knowledge, and continuing to champion the profession and the professionals who work in this all-important industry.

Rick Blasgen is president and CEO of Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).