Top 6 Supply Chain Trends in 2023

Biggest Trends that Could Shake Up Supply Chains in 2023

By Jason Dunn

February 17, 2023

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Last year saw unprecedented disruption for global supply chains. Stakeholders have spent decades making international trade easy and efficient, but historic levels of change and chaos have made it difficult.
This year, radical change could be an opportunity to evolve supply chains to make them more effective.
Below we will analyse six of the most prominent supply chain trends that could potentially reshape the industry in 2023. 

1.   Digitalisation

Digital technology like IoT, cloud computing, and Artificial Intelligence improve visibility and efficiency. Supply chain technology is increasingly being adopted by the industry’s players and throughout trade routes. Stakeholders can monitor the movement of goods in real time, improve inventory management and automate various supply chain processes.
Advanced technologies provide better insights and increase visibility, whether for a port, a ship, or in-land transport. As a result, decisions between participants are improved, and information on transported materials becomes more transparent.

Tracking systems mean companies can track the location and status of goods which means they now have all the necessary information they need to optimise their supply chain management and operations. 
In particular, we know now that the MarineTraffic Visibility for Containers solution provides real time ocean shipment tracking. This is an ideal tool for supply chain professionals as it allows them to know where their shipment is at all times, and to every stop, from the origin to the destination. And this is how smart solutions expand visibility for logistics routes nowadays. 
Anyone can use MarineTraffic to track vessels. And with the Visibility for Containers solution users can track their cargo that is being transported in containers globally as well. This solution doesn’t primarily rely on carrier updates to provide customers with real time predictive ETA insights. The predictive ETA is enhanced with AI that improves accuracy and helps customers rest assured that they can make more informed decisions. 
Tools like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual, and Augmented Reality are developing supply chain operations, from training to design and logistics. Companies can create virtual models of their supply chain processes, enabling them to reach optimised supply and improve their operations. Likewise, digital models help improve safety, and employees can test functions before they happen on a work site.
Sweeping transformations are taking place worldwide with the introduction of new technologies. Digital supply chain tools are integrating into a unified platform to ease trade on an end-to-end scale.

2.   Automation and robotics

Disruptions have become common for the global supply chain in recent years. Those across trade routes have been using automated systems. Ports and warehouses, for example, and increasingly implementing automated robot systems to aid logistics operations.
Automation and robotics are being adopted broadly, from warehouse management to transport. Automated guided vehicles and robotic arms are being deployed in warehouses and distribution centres to improve productivity and reduce labour costs. In addition, drones and autonomous vehicles are supporting transport and last mile delivery processes.
At a logistics centre in Staufenberg, Germany, a DHL Supply Chain has implemented a fully automated robot picking system. The location ships merchandise to end customers in Austria, Poland and the Netherlands. It also handles inbound new inventory and returns, the warehousing of 3.5 million items, order picking and packing.
The German model provides a snapshot of the future for in-house logistics at warehousing in-land. However, seaports the world over are now speeding up their automated tooling capacity.
Digital technologies are being adopted significantly at the Port of Singapore. The country’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) is developing the Next Generation Vessel Traffic M
anagement System. This provides real-time awareness of shipping traffic. It also uses ditigalport@SG to enhance the efficiency of port operations and reduce the turnaround time of ships.  
This site involves electrified automated yard cranes, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to transport containers between the yard and the wharf. 
Other major ports have integrated digital tools to develop operations. Rotterdam Port Authority is partnering with software supplier Airwayz. This is to build a U-Space Airspace prototype and make the terminal safer and more efficient.The prototype is planned to keep drone airspace safe. It also provides opportunities for drone operators and improves drone traffic control. According to the founder and CEO of WRDS, Simran Doshi,

The common pursuit of new technology across the supply chain is enabling seamless and frictionless trade. 

 3.   Climate and sustainability considerations

Governments and companies are becoming more aware of the environmental impact and taking steps to reduce global carbon output. This includes using electric and hybrid vehicles, investing in renewable energy, implementing sustainable packaging, and reducing waste. Firms are also considering reducing their dependency on single-use plastics and packaging materials. This would dramatically impact raw material markets.

The UN’s social development goals included responsible consumption and production, universally available green energy and climate action. As the foundation of the global economy, shipping is under massive pressure to see these goals become reality.

As the consequence of changing climate, extreme weather events are also becoming more prevalent. Frequent harsh storms, record hot winters, changes in water levels, heatwaves and droughts.
As a result logistics are forced to be attentive to existing circumstances constantly. In addition, containers relying on rail networks and trucks for shipping to bypass sea lanes mean more costs and delivery complications.  
All these random changes have a knock-on effect. For example, a ship delayed due to a storm means the cargo is late. Therefore, it is essential to improve supply chain visibility so logistics routes can be modified. 
Powerful solutions like the Visibility for Containers come at a time when the avoidance of such bottlenecks is a must. Thanks to features like this, which take into account every delay that could potentially affect the delivery of cargo on time, users can now stay assured that they are always updated with the most accurate  predictive ETA possible.

4.   Blockchain technology

The shipment of goods by sea is a complex process. It involves information and collaboration between scores of individual stakeholders, all of whom are scattered worldwide. Problems inevitably arise, including language barriers, time zone issues and administrative errors.
Blockchain technology is already being used as supply chain technology. Shipping logistics across multiple sectors are ensuring that data is more easily accessible and transferable between several parties.
Blockchain can also be used in cargo and logistical tracking and helps lower costs as industries switch from physical documentation. It can improve transparency and security in supply chain operations. This technology can create a digital record of all transactions and goods and services. This develops supply chains and reduces the possibility of fraud.
If stakeholders implement blockchain technology on a sufficient scale, supply chains could transform significantly as barriers to frictionless trade reduce.
Blockchain is primarily used for container shipping, but its potential applications are significant. 

5.   Regulation

Global disruptions and challenges haven’t been ignored. Lawmakers and international regulatory bodies are responding to crises through regulation and legislation.
Industries and governing authorities want to shift to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is consistent with the UN’s social development targets. This marks the introduction of several significant legislations, which will increase requirements and accountability on logistics stakeholders. The IMO’s new carbon rules mean all ships over a certain capacity are rated based on their CO2 emissions per unit of cargo unit.
Investments in retrofitting ships to be more efficient are taking place. As is support for reducing emissions and moving towards zero and low-carbon energy sources. 
Liquid natural gas is increasingly used in shipping. It is seen as a transition fuel with a lower carbon output than combustion fuels. However, the genuine initiative is towards ammonia and hydrogen. 
Shifting the entire global economy to try and end reliance on fossil fuels, will be enormous. Currently, the broad consensus is that the net-zero transition will happen, so it’s better to embrace it than fight it. Despite this, any stringent regulation risks encouraging loopholes or dissuading new industry entrants.

 6.   Geopolitics

Finally, but not negligibly, political pressures will continue to impact economies. Wars have already hit the oil and gas sectors, grain, and other tertiary markets. Moreover, trade wars and  sanctions have added additional limitations to trade activity on top of international legislation.

Disruptions felt as a result of international conflict and tensions have already started a localisation drive. This puts further pressure on producers who, until recently, could comfortably rely on outsourcing production far away from their primary markets.
Flexibility has become central to supply chain management. There is a popular desire to see the chaotic nature of political, economic, and climate factors replaced with certainty.
Marc-Oliver Nandy, Director of Global Supply Chain at Mercedes-Benz, feels optimistic about the direction of global supply chains this year.

These trends show that there are still challenges ahead. Modern supply chain trends are impacting performance. The need for constant vigilance has been learned the hard way after years of taking untroubled logistics for granted. After all, when supply chains work as they are intended, we don’t notice them at all.
One of the outcomes of recent years is the understanding that “business as usual” is no longer a given.

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Jason Dunn

Jason Dunn

Senior Account Executive at London-based public relations agency, Navigate PR
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