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ASCM Insights

What Will 2017 Bring to Supply Chains?


Late last week, Forbes published an intriguing piece by Paul Martyn, who had asked experts for their supply chain predictions for 2017. He started his interviews with the statement: “Tell me something I don’t know.” Following are Martyn’s top five findings. 

1. “The supply chain will go bimodal.” 

Martyn writes that bimodal supply chains maintain their current processes and strategies while integrating the newest, disruptive technologies. He talked to Paul Keel, senior vice president of 3M’s supply chain. Keel suggests that balancing cost, quality, and speed is an outdated notion in supply chain. Instead, supply chain professionals need to ensure customers get it all: the best goods at the cheapest prices in the fastest period of time.

2. "Socially-inspired product development will rise.” 

Martyn also talked to Sue Welch, the CEO of Bamboo Rose, an extended retail product life cycle management platform. She notes that supply chain is evolving quickly, and professionals need to be ready for more “connectivity, digitization, customer-centricity and collaboration.” For example, partners will create products together. Plus, she says, old-school processes, such as procurement and sourcing, will have to entirely modernize.

3. “Excellence will be measured by adaptability.” 

I admit, this is something we already know. But, I wonder if APICS professionals are acting on this knowledge and fully using the technology necessary to adapt quickly. Martyn talked to Jim Lawton, chief product and marketing officer at Rethink Robotics. He predicts that the ability to sense and respond to information quickly will be a key differentiator for supply chains in 2017. Lawton offers the example of using behavior-based robots and other artificial intelligence to gather operations information and sort the actionable data quickly to apply it immediately to supply chains. 

4. “High performing organizations will recognize supply chain and procurement operations as critical differentiators.”

I know this one doesn’t come as a surprise to you either. However, while some company leaders embrace this idea, others might be skeptical. In that case, share this article with your boss and your boss’s boss. “Supply chain management, including procurement, are organizationally critical, if not defining disciplines and deserve equal billing at the executive table,” Martyn writes.

3M’s Keel suggests that company leaders now look to supply chains not only for productivity and cost reduction, but also for new product development, environmental stewardship, Customer Relations, and value creation.

5.A redefinition of supply chain risk.”

Here again is one that doesn’t surprise supply chain professionals, who stay up at night thinking of how unexpected challenges will derail their best efforts at work. That said, what will 2017 bring? The article quotes Steven Minsky, CEO of LogicManager, an enterprise risk management solutions provider. “Effective change management addresses the risks you already know about, while enabling strategic mitigation of future unknowns,” he says. Experts also agree that information security coupled with greater supplier collaboration is a risk necessity moving forward.

As you examine these top five supply chain predictions for 2017, think about how APICS can help you prepare for the year ahead. Through our certification, education, and research offerings, APICS elevates excellence, innovation, and resilience. Visit our newly redesigned website,, to find out more.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted at

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