Vision Of The Future: 2021 Supply Chain Predictions

January 19, 2021

Source: Forbes| Richard Howells, Vice President – Solution Management for Digital Supply Chain, SAP

“Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.”

This quote has been attributed to many people, but anyone who made predictions about their “20/20” vision certainly would agree.

As we look in the rearview mirror at an “eventful” 2020, I have had the chance both to reflect on the past 12 months and talk to a few thought leaders in the supply chain and technology space about what lies ahead for us in 2021 (and beyond).

So, with that in the back of my mind, here I go, throwing my thoughts into the “websphere”, about predictions for supply chain executives in 2021.


Supply Chains remain front and center as we continue to survive and find a cure through a vaccine. Supply Chains were a major boardroom discussion in 2020, and this will continue as we move into the new year. Manufacturing and distributing vaccines to rapidly and safely protect the world is probably the biggest challenge for 2021.

Supply Chains become more resilient. If we learned nothing else from 2020, it was that business models need to be more resilient. ln the coming year, we will continue to see a greater shift to more resilient digital supply chain models as businesses focus on expanding or transforming capabilities to increase flexibility, visibility, and control. All to enable greater responsiveness to continuous disruption, demand changes and uncertainty.

Supply Chain Executives will be less risk-tolerant. In an effort to reduce costs, companies have globalized supply chains and, as the pandemic has shown, increased risk. Companies have started to introduce more risk mitigation strategies, and this will continue moving forward. Alternate sourcing strategies, inventory optimization, and balancing off-shoring, near-shoring and onshoring manufacturing and supply to name a few.

Supply Chains will lead the way in sustainability. Customers are a major influence (along with regulatory and environmental) for the push towards smart sustainability to help minimize environmental impact and maximize natural resources. If you look at almost any corporate website, you will find the company’s values, purpose, or mission. And invariably, you will find that sustainability is at the top of most companies’ lists. Whether it is corporate social responsibility, a commitment to be carbon neutral or negative) or striving to be a player in the circular economy, sustainability is top of mind.

Companies will rely on their Business Networks to get it done. As companies have looked to improve customer service and satisfaction, they have increasingly looked to their ecosystem of partners (e.g. contract manufacturers, logistics service providers, 3rd party maintenance teams, and contingent workers) to provide key services or solutions. This networked economy will demand network solutions for improved collaboration and visibility

Industry 4.0 enabling technologies will continue to drive digitization. As we look to ramp up our production and distribution volumes and still comply with social distancing guidelines, we will see more robotics and automation to augment the workforce. We will also see tools to make employees more productive and informed. As pointed out earlier, resiliency and risk mitigation require visibility, which in turn, require reliable, and real-time data. This will bring the cloud, IoT, and blockchain to the forefront.

In future articles, I will delve into more insights about these topics and share the thoughts and ideas of other thought leaders and experts in the area.

Here is to a happy (and less eventful) new year.

If you’d like to learn more about how organizations can achieve better resiliency in times of disruption, check out the IDC Report, “Resilient Supply Chain for a Disruptive World.

Richard HowellsI’ve been working in the supply chain management and manufacturing space for over 25 years, and I’m responsible for driving the market direction and positioning of SAP’s Supply Chain Management and IoT solutions. Prior to joining SAP in 2004, I spent 15 years with Marcam Solutions where I was VP of Marketing for the companies Process ERP solutions. I have also implemented ERP and SCM systems at companies such as Nestle, Gillette, Colgate Palmolive, Rohm & Haas, Wyeth, Royal Worcester Spode and Dairy Crest. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Mid Glamorgan in the UK. Follow me @howellsrichard This UrIoTNews article is syndicated fromInternet of Business