We have seen unbelievable scientific and medical advancements in the past few decades. Some of these advancements have enabled us to explore the deeper reaches of outer space. Others have enabled us to eradicate diseases we thought would wipe us out completely.
While all of these various advancements are different in nature, they all share one things in common. Without effective supply chains, none of these achievements would be possible. Therefore, for national supply chain day, we’d like to celebrate some of the incredible accomplishments supply chains have made over the years.
The Cold Chain
Some of the most dramatic progress in supply chain technology has involved the cold chain.
In the early days of transportation, ice and other cold goods had to be delivered via horse-drawn carriages and other methods we would consider primitive today. In those days, even keeping the load cold required large blocks of ice.
As time went by, we realized that we could use various materials to insulate the cold goods during transportation across large distances. This reduced the need for huge amounts of ice during transit.
Fast forward to today, and we now routinely witness trucks and other modes of transportation equipped to transport cold goods with relative ease. This important development move beyond food transportation. In fact, many life-saving medications and vaccines require transportation at subzero temperatures at all times. This means that our transportation methods need to be able to maintain incredibly cold temperatures for the duration of the possibly lengthy trips.
Our needs for cold goods grew over the years, and the supply chain responded in an incredible way.
Overcoming Massive Demand
By rough estimates, more than 35 million packages are delivered in the US every day. In order to meet this incredible demand, supply chains have had to develop new technology and logistical methods.
Specifically, technology such as transportation management systems have made it easier for supply chain professionals to identify any weaknesses in their operations. Beyond that, these systems have enabled better visibility and communication between all parts of the supply chain. Without such technology, it would be nearly impossible for supply chains to meet the incredible demand seen every single day across the country.
Global and Regional Supply Chains
Our world has become increasingly interconnected over the past few decades. In the past, what happened in China would only affect China itself and a few surrounding countries. Now, when an issue develops in one major country, the entire world is significantly affected.
The complexity of global supply chains is almost unimaginable. There are so many intertwined pieces of these systems that determining exactly where an issue occurred can often be very difficult.
For this reason, supply chains have adapted by learning to diversify their suppliers/manufacturers. Additionally, many supply chains have begun to operate more regionally to offset the impacts of global disruptions such as tariffs and sanctions imposed on countries normally relied on for anything from materials to goods. This change comes in response to the environmental, financial, and other costs associated with complicated global systems.
We will always be deeply connected across the globe, our business relationships aren’t going to just disappear. But supply chains have recognized the need for more sustainable methods of connectivity and have responded appropriately.
Navigating Recent Challenges
In very recent times, we’ve seen a labor shortage that has rocked the supply chain industry. Besides just a lack of workers, we’ve also had to deal with social distancing rules, government restrictions, port backups, and other pandemic-related concerns. Luckily, the supply chain, once again, has developed ways and means to overcome these issues.
From driverless trucks to yard management via drones, the supply chain industry is always pushing the limits of innovation.
Even different shipment philosophies have developed over the years to combat issues of the era. For instance, some companies use just-in-time strategies, while others use just-in-case models. Depending on the needs of an individual business, either one of these methods may be appropriate.
In recent years, retailers of all sizes have adopted and tweaked these models. Changing inventory management strategies at the drop of a hat would have been very difficult to achieve in the past. Fortunately, our technology and improved operational methods have enabled us to make these modifications with little fuss.
No matter what challenges and changes the supply chain has faced over the years, it has always responded. With impressive ingenuity and determination, we’ve been able to continue to keep operations running through wars, pandemics, and a multitude of other issues.
On this national supply chain day, we hope that all supply chain professionals can take a minute to reflect and appreciate how far we’ve come. None of this progress would have been possible without hard working people along every part of the chain.