2021 Supply Chain Management Trends to Watch

2021 Supply Chain Management Trends

As we roll into the new year and the supply chain and logistics industry continue to adjust to the impacts 2020 and its global pandemic have had on technologies and processes, it’s time to take a look forward and see what supply chain management trends are most likely to have an effect on the industry in 2021.

While some of these technologies and methods were already beginning to make waves in previous years, many have accelerated their growth, or have evolved further as solutions to issues made plain by the impacts of COVID-19.



Blockchain has been considered both an up-and-coming tech solution and an overhyped trend at times- but it appears to be here to stay, particularly in the supply-chain industry. As a result of studies indicating that blockchain solutions can save industries like food and beverage billions of dollars over the next few years, blockchain, and the improved transparency it brings, are likely to be more widely adopted across supply chains in 2021.

While cloud-sharing of data has many benefits, blockchain’s more secure data-sharing has significant appeal. With more businesses hopping on the blockchain bandwagon, supply chains will become more transparent, informed, and allow the additional bonus of facilitating the use of cryptocurrencies for international business.  


Concurrent Supply Chain Planning

Increased demand for tighter margins, smaller decision windows, and increased responsiveness has the concurrent supply chain planning method looking more attractive to businesses throughout the industry in 2021. Utilizing concurrent planning optimizes orders, inventory, and transport simultaneously in one overarching plan, avoiding the pitfalls of sub-optimizing a siloed operation, or the weaving of several independent plans together.

Successful concurrent planning takes more work at the outset, but the results are an entirely optimized chain that is extremely responsive.  


Expanded Usage of IoT

While the adoption and expansion of IoT technology has been occurring within supply chains and logistics for quite some time, an even more expansive and widespread number of applications is likely. Like blockchain, IoT tech allows for increased visibility and transparency across the supply chain. Installing sensors that relay information on loads in transports, in warehouses, and more keeps supply chain management appraised of where things are, where they’re moving, and catches snags or issues in real-time.

IoT is particularly useful when installed on refrigerated loads, monitoring temperatures throughout travel- which proves vital when transporting goods like produce or vaccines.  


Robotics and Automation

The advent of automation and robotics within supply chain management is also nothing new, but as the supply chains that have embraced these advancements continue to flourish, the likelihood of more widespread adoption is inevitable. AI technologies in particular have seen a significant expansion in demand, as they facilitate a more efficient, consistent, reliable, and profitable ROI.

Automation is a trend beyond operations- drones and self-driving vehicles for delivery, pick and pack automation, and more are becoming more widely accepted as it is made evident that they don’t replace their human counterparts, rather freeing them from monotonous tasks and allowing them to perform more high-function and creative work.   


Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are an extension of the growing trend toward full automation. For the uninitiated, smart contracts are transaction protocols that execute automatically when certain conditions are met. In supply chains, this manifests as automatically generated invoices when shipments are confirmed to arrive at a destination, or automated cryptocurrency or other payments, allowing trusted parties to bypass arbitration.

Utilizing smart contracts makes many processes run more smoothly and quickly, much like other automation implementations.  


Outsourcing Supply Chain Management to 3PLs

While many small-to-medium businesses had already discovered the myriad benefits of allowing third-party-logistics experts to manage their supply chains, the extreme stresses of the pandemic’s varied impacts on global supply chains in 2020 highlighted the need for expert management to those who had not yet made the switch.

As 2021 continues, it’s highly likely that partnering with logistics and supply chain experts will become a standard practice for businesses seeking to have worry-free supply chain management while they use their intellectual and time capital elsewhere in their businesses.

Keeping an eye toward growth, expansion, expertise, and flexibility are all lessons that 2020 has imparted to the industry, and as 2021 continues, it will be interesting to see how these various technologies and solutions continue to evolve throughout supply chains.    


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