Normally in November, our research arm would begin assessing and score carding our prior 2020 Annual Predictions for Multi-Industry and Global Supply Chains that were published at the beginning of this year. That was in a normal year.
Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges not seen in many careers, a disruption that very few could have predicted. We would submit that the year 2020 provided testimonial to grit, adaptiveness and ingenuity of global supply chain management teams when it counted the most.
Entering the year, the overall global business climate reflected considerable economic and business uncertainties and indeed such themes were outlined in our 2020 predictions Executive Summary:
- Indications of a cautious economic outlook, with concerns for prominent downside geo-political risks.
- Continued unparalleled levels of global supply network management challenges especially focused on China.
- Talent management and recruitment strategies focused on reskilling and retention.
- The need for more proactive cyberattack defenses and data security safeguarding across supplier, contractor and customer networks remaining mandatory.
- Supply Chain Digital Transformation strategies, while continuing to have strategic connotations, likely having to focus on near-term business objectives.
- Advanced technology buying and adoption strategies turning more near-term focused because of likely constrained budgets. The exception we believed was the technology-enabled disruption of transportation contracting, brokerage, third-party logistics and other logistics focused business processes. A further area was manufacturing and considerations for Manufacturing 4.0
- The positioning for global online retail platform dominance being scaled back toward more geographic or regionally focused online fulfillment.
We closed our Executive Summary of our 2020 predictions with the following statement:
“Supply chain leaders and their respective teams must focus on a renewed emphasis on assuring overall agility and resiliency of associated customer demand and supply networks, more seamless integration of business processes and more-timely, risk-aware decision-making capabilities.”
Self-Assessment and Scorecard
Obviously, it serves little purpose to self-assess each of our detailed ten predictions for this year. Indeed, this year was not one that could have relied on any forecasts or predictions.
We take comfort in our viewpoint that there were already challenges among multi-industry demand and supply networks prior to the pandemic’s impact and that agility and resiliency of processes would be continued to be tested.
The pandemic was the ultimate test. Many would want to believe that the year 2020 was an extraordinary outlier, one that tested the limits and in same notable examples, the successful pivots made by individual supply chain management teams. COVID-19 indeed exposed shortfalls in supply chain business processes, capabilities and decision-making. Despite such exposures, global product demand and supply networks have bounced-back by applying sheer determination and resourcefulness.
As we transition to the start of the year 2021, the emphasis now turns towards renewal, addressing shortfalls and new directions.
Our 2021 Predictions
In the light of what many will rightfully describe as preparing and rebuilding for the “new normal” of continuous disruption and response, we are planning a different format for our upcoming year 2021 predictions to prepare supply chain management teams for the upcoming year and beyond.
We will forgo our usual ten specific predictions, and instead adopt a multi-year perspective addressing 2021 as the “Year of Renewal.”
This supply chain industry analyst initially featured this format in a predictions framework commentary that we unveiled at the end of October.
After addressing two fundamental predictive areas, what to expect in the global economy and in global commodity and components landscapes in the coming year, we will then address our determination of areas of supply chain business process, transformation, decision-making and talent management aspects of renewal in the format of:
New Thinking– challenging traditional notions of approach as a result of the discoveries and learning depicted by the pandemic. As we have noted, many supply chain management leaders are of the belief that rather than communicating in terms and definitions with mixed meanings, new thinking now has to involve organizational mindshare shifts as to how product demand and supply networks best enable expected business outcomes in a business environment of continuous disruption and added risks. In includes what is implied in outside-in decision making capabilities.
New Definitions– translating new thinking in the context of what is really implied in added agility, alignment, orchestration and resiliency for each process area. The weighting of speed, cost and risk aspects within key business process areas. We recognize that each industry is unique and will address some examples of such uniqueness. We will context what is meant by the interaction of people with advanced technology as well as what stages of digital transformation imply.
New Directions– setting a compass direction in specific supply chain business process areas, in the deploying of more analytics-driven and predictive decision-making capabilities. Our effort will be directed at placing a succinct perspective as to fostering added supply chain efficiency, resiliency and resilience in specific capability areas.
Supply Chain Matters has already featured examples of our 2021 year of renewal perspectives addressing specific supply chain management business process areas. They included new thinking, definitions and directions related to supply chain execution applied to warehouse management systems, and to the notions of Manufacturing Capacity Management.
Over the next four weeks we will be featuring on Supply Chain Matters other broad areas in supply chain management business process management and decision-making capability areas.
Our goal is to publish our annual predictions Research Advisory report in the first part of January 2021. Our plan further includes inviting and featuring other noted supply chain management thought leaders to add their perspectives on the “new normal” in ongoing episodes of our Supply Chain Matters Podcast series.
Finally, as we delve into this new predictions format, we encourage your feedback as to its value, and areas covered.
Stay tuned as we venture into this different format for preparing for the forthcoming Year of Renewal.
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