According to the International Monetary Fund, the world’s economy is worth $88 Trillion as of 2019. The Conference Board estimates that the global economy will grow at an annual rate of about 3% between 2019 and 2023, and at about 2.8% between 2024 and 2028. None of this is possible without supply chains; The networks of interdependent organizations that cooperate and collaborate with one another to move goods and information between producers and consumers. In the past this mission-critical activity was relegated to the unsexy confines of the business world – back office operations. That attitude is changing and it is changing fast.
The changes taking place in attitudes about supply chains are due to a combination of factors;
- Changes in consumption patterns driven by economic growth in China, India, Brazil, Russia and other markets outside North America and Western Europe.
- Changes in the buying behavior and consumption patterns of individuals and businesses around the world, accompanied by increasing awareness about how the production and consumption patterns of the past may be affecting climate change and the future of our planet.
- The inexorable forward march of technology, as it evolves to solve the problems that have arisen due to the preceding two factors; Connected devices, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, predictive data and analytics, 3D printing, blockchain, advanced manufacturing, and advanced materials. These technologies, and others, have finally matured to the point where they are being tested in the world’s supply chains – to solve problems that could not be solved in the past, to eke out efficiencies, and in some cases to completely overturn how things have been done in the past.
- The politics of tradewars, tariffs, and geo-political groupings and alliances brings the interconnected, interdependent, and fragile nature of today’s global supply chains into stark relief for even the most uninformed citizen.
These concerns are not some theoretical or imaginary distraction; Supply chain is the basis on which corporations win or lose competitive advantage. In the space of a few decades Amazon has become one of the world’s most valuable companies at the expense of Walmart, Toys R US, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, largely on its superior supply chain management, and its expertise in technology. In its heyday, the same was said about Walmart. There are many more examples
Well functioning supply chains are also positively correlated with economic development: Regions of the world with well developed infrastructure and supply chains tend to experience superior economic growth in comparison to parts of the world with poorly functioning infrastructure and supply chains.
My column will study, analyze, and highlight the innovations that are being brought to market to solve problems in supply chain management, supply chain logistics, and supply chain finance, with a particular focus on how they are inextricably interdependent on one another. I will examine this topic across industries, and across regions of the world. Where possible we will look to data to help inform the discussion. Often we will highlight the specific individuals and organizations doing interesting work tying supply chain, innovation, and technology together in ways that create value for businesses, for individuals, for countries, and for the world; A 1% efficiency improvement in global supply chains represents aggregate value-creation of roughly $880 Billion.
The column will appear on FreightWaves once a week. If you have ideas you want to see me cover in future articles, send them to me via Twitter @brianlaungaoaeh or via LinkedIn. I believe that the best ideas come from the most unexpected places, so I want to hear from FreightWaves’ readers and anyone else who is obsessively enthusiastic about supply chains, innovation, and technology.