Today ushers in the start of a new decade- yes, we have indeed reached the year 2020 and the start of another decade.

Readers who know of this supply chain industry analyst and blog Editor may or may not be aware that I have be doing this role for quite some time.  Like it or not, I can remember writing as an AMR Research analyst on the pending technology impacts of Y2k and how supply chain systems could be impacted. So much for that prediction.  Predictions

Over the last two decades I have researched, predicted, articulated, evaluated and counseled on the notions of connected B2B supply chains, the advent of online commerce, the notions of  either intelligent, adaptive or digitally enabled supply chains and all of the business, process and change management elements in-between. I have contributed not only as an observer and industry analyst to supply chain management teams, but to technology and services providers, helping them to get grounded on the realities of the market. Sometimes we all agree, sometimes we do not.

Wrapping my head around the fact that two decades later, I’m still writing about and generally excited about the benefits or shortfalls related to certain technologies are for me a blessing. Knowing that a vision of 20 years ago, the ability to be able of connect physical and digital supply chains is upon us, and within definitive view, is equally exiting.

I’ve observed and seen a lot over this period. Believe it or not, age does bring wisdom. Those of you that have spoken with me or sought my perspective may know of my sometimes expression: “I have seen this act before,” like watching a movie and you already know the ending.

Technology and business management waves come and go, but it is always important to reflect on where the journey originated and where it is headed.

Absolutely, there have been technology hype cycles, some that over time and proper learning, did deliver meaningful benefits. Who could forget the advent of RFID applied to supply chain processes, and the various mandates of implementation that fizzled. However, in proper time, the cost curve of the technology did improve, and added supplemental labeling technologies came forward, and supply chain management and IT teams eventually made the technology work in beneficial use cases. The same could be stated for Artificial Intelligence, which was also around 20 years ago, but now because of added advancements in data and compute speed technologies is gaining increased applied uses with meaningful benefits.

The reality to remember is that supply chain management teams have always been willing to evaluate and figure out the appropriate best use of advanced business processes and cutting-edge enabling technologies. In many cases, there was little choice given the need for speed and adaptiveness in responding and enabling what lines-of-businesses required. What is sometimes forgotten, again from my lens, is that the advent of online commerce has stemmed from the efforts of dedicated supply chain and logistics management professionals. There was little choice. The same holds true in the areas of strategic supply sourcing, supply network planning and risk mitigation.

Today’s notions of advanced technology reflect on the potential and applied uses of either Blockchain, Internet of Things, advanced analytics, autonomous operation and other technologies. In due time, the span of early to later stage adopters will each be able to determine appropriate use cases, and garner added benefits and learning.

The reason I remain excited is that supply chain management has come a long way in the prior two decades and it is important to pause and reflect on what indeed has occurred.

There was a time two decades ago when I met people and mentioned I worked in the field of supply chain management; they would reply- what’s that all about?  Now, a day does not go by without the term being articulated in all forms of media and other dimensions. Now when I mention the term, the response is often, that sounds exciting or that sounds challenging.

There was a time when I spoke to audiences of the notions of adaptive supply chain networks, and with each passing year, and especially in 2019, multi-industry supply chain management teams demonstrated adaptive responses to unprecedented complexity and business challenges. Multi-industry supply chains have navigated a major trade war, heightened geo-political tensions, the increasing effects of global warming, the continuing explosive growth of online and digital commerce.

There is also new talent on-board who embrace added challenges, are enthused with opportunity and always willing to push at the status quo envelope, provide added ideas and in due time, become our next wave of senior leadership.

The takeaway of my editorial is one of perspective on both the New Year, but also on where the journey started and where it is headed.

Before heading back to work, take the time to reflect as well.

 

Bob Ferrari

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