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ASCM Insights

10 Supply Chain Trends to Watch for in 2022


Industries across the globe continue to battle the Great Supply Chain Disruption. They’re striving to optimize execution, diminish risk, improve dexterity and identify ways to gain a real competitive advantage. To achieve these goals, it will be essential to overcome today’s intense labor challenges, maximize the latest digital transformation capabilities, streamline sourcing and inventory management, prioritize customer centricity, and much more. Getting ahead of key trends will enable supply chains to proactively shape a successful, sustainable future. Read on to discover what’s coming in 2022 and beyond.

1. Advanced analytics and automation

Advanced analytics and automation will continue to accelerate, helping organizations mitigate disruption via digital, agile supply chain management. The implementation of predictive and prescriptive analytics — as well as advances in big data, algorithms and robotics — will have broad-reaching effects. Specifically, the organizations that harness the power of these solutions will benefit from greater visibility, data-driven decision-making, execution efficiency, predictability and profitability. Of course, all of this hinges on effective data security and governance, as well as a dedication to reskilling employees.

2. Supply chain talent

Supply chain talent is critical to supporting ongoing industry advances, solutions and frameworks — and as such, people at all levels of supply chain should expect to experience new ways of working. Anticipate a convergence of training, plus better pay and benefits for existing employees; as well as hiring talent with foundational skills in data analytics. Organizations must be creative when attracting, reskilling and retaining talent, as traditional approaches may not be as relevant to future supply chain needs.

3. Visibility

Visibility will be a key objective for organizations under pressure to achieve true transformation, satisfy customers and capture new markets. People are willing to pay more for ethical and responsible business processes, and this will be a catalyst for investment in supporting technologies. For instance, as the ability to track and trace goods to the source is increasingly expected by consumers, the internet of things will continue revolutionizing real-time visibility. Look for new business models and heightened trust and collaboration within and beyond organizational boundaries.

4. The rise of e-commerce

The rise of e-commerce is perhaps the most obvious and commonly understood force affecting today’s supply chains. All around the world, warehouses are jam packed — some even have products piling up outside their doors. In fact, this incredible demand squeeze represents the longest ongoing expansion peak in five years. E-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment will continue to shape the way organizations identify and establish key priorities, creating challenges with regards to scale and network efficiency while producing new opportunities to gain competitive advantage.

5. Supply chain resilience

Supply chain resilience will continue to require data expertise, novel solutions and strong collaboration among global networks that are highly complex and interconnected. Key strategies include diversification of suppliers, production capabilities and transportation processes, as well as finding alternative materials and nontraditional partnerships. Resilient supply chain design will also be critical to mitigating adverse events faster than the competition, providing excellent customer service, and generating value and market share.

6. Supply chain agility

Supply chain agility will be essential to creating flexible networks that can effectively respond to dynamic customer demand and ever-increasing uncertainty. It will be important to proactively identify ways to increase responsiveness through variable cost structures. However, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach, organizations must also foster continuously innovative cultures. The agile supply chains of the future will be those that can react quickly to changes, delays and unexpected events in order to meet customer expectations, outpace the competition and drive growth.

7. Digital supply chains

Digital supply chains will continue to be essential elements of numerous trends on this list, including visibility, resilience and agility. Digitized networks use technology to augment workflow and data collection — meaning that this trend has ramifications on both talent and data infrastructures. Successfully digitizing supply chains requires large-scale sensor implementation via the internet of things; shared internal and external interfaces, such as cloud-based networks; and process automation and verification. The adoption of tools such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning will meaningfully improve decision-making.

8. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is critical to protecting networks from cyberattacks, which continue to be a dominant threat to supply chains around the world. The explosion of data and data-driven organizations through previously mentioned digital tools is creating many more areas of vulnerability. This interconnectedness means supply chain partners can inadvertently expose each other and their customers to privacy breaches, identity theft and worse. Expect greater collaboration when safeguarding networks, devices, people and programs. In addition, more organizations will choose to invest in redundancy, firewalls, and advanced antihacking technologies and employee training.

9. Customer-centricity

Customer-centricity is on the minds of supply chain professionals everywhere, as consumer expectations continue to expand and — as noted earlier — people demand ethical, sustainable business practices. Managing a successful supply chain will require upskilling talent with greater cross-functional and analytical skills so people have the training to support these new levels of customer-centricity. Those supply chains that find ways to meet today’s escalating and intense customer expectations at the lowest cost will prevail.

10. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning, key components of numerous trends on this list, are foundational to integrating people, processes and systems in a wide array of operational environments. The technology-driven evolution to industry 5.0 — which involves a more collaborative approach, as well as partnerships between humans and robots — will have significant impact on supply chain functions such as planning, demand management and fulfillment. As machines learn, improved insights will be discovered, leading to significant transformation, advancement and competitive advantage.

Watch a video discussion of the top supply chain trends to watch for in 2022 from the ASCM Research, Innovation and Strategy Committee (RISC) Sensing Subcommittee. 

About the Author

Adam James Vice President of North American surface transportation, CH Robinson

Adam James is vice president of North American surface transportation at CH Robinson and ASCM’s Research, Innovation and Sensing Committee (RISC) Sensing Subcommittee chair. This committee includes a group of 26 subject-matter experts of diverse profiles and backgrounds, representing industry, academia and consulting. The seven-month process to identify the trends consisted of extensive literature review, topic extraction and discussion, as well as a rigorous scoring methodology.