Supply Chain Trends this Year and Beyond!

Supply Chain Trends

Like other sectors, the global supply chain industry has evolved rapidly. The preceding pandemic, coupled with breakneck technologies, has brought unignorable changes in Supply Chain trends.

New and existing geopolitical conflicts, climatic changes, inflation, recession, and other unforeseen issues affect access to goods and how goods reach their final destinations.

There’s a need for the introduction of modern strategies to manage and build resilience in supply chain functions. Below are emerging Supply Chain trends poised to disrupt the environment this year and beyond.

1.     More Focus on Sustainability

Sustainability is a blanketing trend affecting all industries due to the increasing awareness of the importance of environmental protection. As a result, individual and government procurement for different departments currently heavily focuses on sustainable practices. A recent State of Manufacturing report found that 63% of supply chain companies prioritize product sustainability.

Unlike before, more consumers and businesses, including supply chain businesses, have increased their sustainability efforts. Because of the many ways of improving sustainability, players in the supply chain sector should tailor their efforts to meet their unique needs. Even though sustainability starts from the manufacturing processes, the supply chain also plays a role.

Ideally, a sustainable supply chain should ensure goods are transmitted quickly and cheaply to customers while minimizing or eliminating environmental impacts. Below are best practices that improve supply chain sustainability:

  • Identify pain points in the supply chain: Environmental impacts from the supply chain differ based on various factors. Supply chain companies should identify specific pain points in their supply chain process.
  • Optimize transportation: Transport activities accounted for more than 30% of GHG emissions in the U.S. Supply chain companies can reduce transportation emissions by distributing products from nearby warehouses, embracing electric vehicles, and other technological options to reduce transport-related carbon footprint.
  • Work with sustainable suppliers: Upholding environmental sustainability doesn’t end with your business. Working with business partners who don’t care about the environment won’t reduce your company’s emissions. You should demand that other parties meet the basics and monitor this by evaluating their carbon footprints, ESG reports, and PCFs.
  • Minimize inventory: Surprisingly, warehousing accounts for 13% of supply-chain-related emissions. This includes go-downs that consume a lot of energy for HVAC units. While supply chain firms need inventory as distribution centers, they should make precise forecasts using deep learning and big data to stock only what’s required. Using smart HVAC units and lights also lowers emissions.

Use eco-friendly packing materials – supply chain companies should also switch to recyclable and reusable packaging materials to reduce the amount of landfill waste.

2.     Artificial Intelligence and Automation

Supply chain professionals believe artificial intelligence and automation will be game changers in 2023 and beyond. Supply chain management is a crucial part of business operations revolving around the supply of goods and services. As such, businesses should take advantage of artificial intelligence and automation technologies to ensure goods reach their customers timely.

Businesses with lackluster supply chain management are heavily disadvantaged in the current competitive business environment. Optimizing the flow of products and services is crucial, as it ensures that businesses meet their customer’s demands and remain ahead of the competition. Supply chain businesses can leverage AI and automation in the following ways:

  • Inventory management: Knowing which product and how much is required is crucial to the supply chain. Artificial intelligence has allowed retail stores and mail carriers to track their inventory. Businesses can track orders being delivered to various parts of the globe while tracking stored inventory using automated surveillance checks. AI-powered devices can monitor the volume, temperature, product errors, and employee downtime.
  • Demand forecasting: Big data and machine learning models can predict human behavior accurately. This helps supply chain businesses stock what’s necessary and foresee shortages before they happen. This reduces inventory losses and out-of-stock cases.
  • Transport optimization: Modern customers have unique needs, especially when it comes to fast and accurate delivery. Fortunately, this is made possible by AI-driven GPS solutions. These technologies identify and create efficient transport routes using existing map information and real-time data.

Artificial intelligence also improves customer service and warehouse automation. This increases efficiency, saves on costs, and improves customer satisfaction.

3.     Customization

Manufacturers globally constantly seek ways to increase product sales and improve customer satisfaction. Most retail stores improve supply chain efficiency and incorporate technology to meet the ever-growing demand and customer needs. Among the many proven tactics for achieving this is offering mass customization.

Mass customization involves manufacturing goods and services tailored to meet a customer’s needs. Here, the customer can design products based on their preferences within the manufacturing costs. A good example of mass customization is Nike’s “Nike by You” program, which allows customers to customize their shoes, clothes, and sports apparel. Supply chain businesses should adopt this trend for the following reasons:

  • Improves customer satisfaction without increasing manufacturing costs: Mass customization focuses on providing personalized products to customers at the same cost.
  •  Improved efficiency: Manufacturers design products to almost completion, then personalize them in their final stages. This improves inventory management and delivery times.
  • Better data collection: Customers unknowingly share valuable data by giving out their customization preferences to manufacturers. Companies can use this information for future customization options.

Product manufacturers should adopt an agile supply chain process to benefit from mass customization. Since customization mostly occurs in the final stages, the supply chain process should be able to maneuver quickly to meet customer demands.

4.     Circular Supply Chain

Supply chain processes were initially thought to be linear, starting from raw materials to the end of the supply chain. However, unlike before, more people subscribe to a circular supply chain process, where raw materials and discarded products are introduced or recycled into the manufacturing process. Embracing a circular supply chain improves your sustainability efforts and has economic benefits.


Supply chain management will certainly continue facing disruptions this year and beyond. Apart from the effects of the pandemic, advancing technology is a key determinant of the future of the supply chain. Embracing these emerging trends helps future-proof your supply chain business.

Supply Chain Trends article and permission to publish here provided by Pamela Lattimore. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on June 4, 2023.

Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay