Supply chain companies have certainly had an interesting two years, with COVID-19 impeding movement of goods and people, causing shortages of key products and components, and testing the resilience and adaptability of every player. Along with the challenges, the pandemic also helped to catalyse growth in ecommerce. But what is next for the supply chain and logistics world? Tim Proome, General Manager: Supply Chain Services, Tarsus Distribution
During the hard lockdown of 2020, South African consumers and businesses embraced ecommerce, and many of them have now formed the habit of shopping online. This, in turn, has catalysed a boom in demand for 3PL services that will continue into 2022 and beyond. As companies take their businesses online, they are looking to 3PL outsourcing to save costs on warehousing, IT systems and other infrastructure while delivering world-class service.
2. Last-mile delivery growth will accelerate
Related to the ecommerce boom, we’ve seen an explosion in last-mile delivery services in South Africa. This trend—seen first in grocery and fast food deliveries—is setting higher expectations across the board. B2C and B2B customers alike have come to expect faster, more accurate deliveries at cheaper and cheaper prices. Don’t be too surprised if 30-minute or one-hour delivery becomes a basic requirement in many ecommerce markets rather than a major differentiator.
3. The fallout from COVID will still be present
COVID has changed the supply chain for good, and its presence will continue to be felt throughout 2022. Even 18 months later, technology and other supply chains have yet to completely recover from the disruptions of the pandemic. We can expect to see shortages of certain tech components to persist well into 2022, affecting pricing and availability of many key products.
Furthermore, the way the industry operates has changed for good. Warehousing and logistics companies that embraced remote ways of working will not be returning to their old business processes. Many invested heavily in automating processes, and will be looking at ways to take this even further in the new year.
4. Supply chains will become even more data-driven
Accurate data is the key to keeping on top of inventory and shipments in a modern warehouse with highly automated business processes. One of the key trends unfolding in the supply chain at the moment is tighter integration of processes across different companies in the chain, along with more transparent sharing of information. We can expect to see more data-driven strategies and data sharing, clearing the way for better transparency, visibility, and accountability among all stakeholders. 3PL providers, in particular, will offer richer analytical insights to their clients.
5. Adoption of emerging technologies
Leading 3PL providers and other supply chain companies have invested heavily in technologies like robotic process automation, warehousing management systems and warehouse automation. The next step is to put technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to work. AI will be used for applications like demand prediction, while IoT devices can potentially help to manage assets remotely and provide end-to-end visibility into supply chain processes.