The world in 2021

After a year of disruption, challenge and uncertainty, MHD looks ahead to 2021 and asks leaders from across the supply chain spectrum what they think the industry needs to watch out for next year.

“This has been an extraordinary year for the supply chain and logistics industry, and while it has been stacked with its share of challenges, it is important businesses don’t lose sight of the opportunities that came with it, and use what they’ve learned to further strengthen their business plans and inform their strategy.

Australia Post’s Gary Starr.

Operating in the uncertain environment that the pandemic has created has meant that the way supply chains and logistics are managed has been, at times, a day-to-day proposition. As business owners look to next year, they should seek to embed greater resilience into their operations.

While the interconnectedness of supply chains presents challenges, businesses of all sizes need to be adaptable in order to minimise flow on effects in the event their supply chain is impacted by a crisis or other issue.

What 2021 brings still remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the impacts of the disruption that 2020 brought will continue for some time, as will the lessons, better equipping us for any future challenges.”

Gary Starr, Executive General Manager Business, Government & International at Australia Post

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to be prepared to pivot and that there are always new opportunities if we look close enough.

Kuehne + Nagel’s Bjoern Johansson.

The ramifications of COVID-19 and subsequent change in commercial practices will be with us throughout 2021. Over the next year, we should see shifts in trade parameters, opportunities in e-commerce markets and businesses rethinking their supply chain strategies. The logistics industry continues to play a vital role in keeping economies moving and ensuring that the global flow of goods is unhindered. We see significant opportunities for implementation of new technologies and potentially focusing on increased investment in fields like automation.

Spending habits have shifted with a significant focus on e-commerce and consumers will continue to opt for online shopping over traditional bricks and mortar stores out of convenience and continued concerns surrounding COVID-19. Having real-time visibility, increasing freight speed times and accurate data is especially critical to building a resilient supply chain for e-commerce businesses.”

Bjoern Johansson, Managing Director at Kuehne+Nagel Australia

“The events of the last year accelerated evolution on many fronts. If you do not see it in 2020, look out for this in 2021:

Value beyond profit

We measure value with more criterion than ‘profit’. Expect to see more metrics used to measure alignment with UN Sustainable Development Goals, Science-Based Targets, focus on social licences to operate, ethical sourcing, social procurement, climate action, diversity inclusion respect, and health & wellbeing.

Hayley Jarick, CEO at Supply Chain Sustainability School.

Collaboration over leadership

The ethos of multiple players developing and maintaining unique processes and systems is disappearing, and the emergence of entities efficiently collaborating to create one superior shared solution has begun. Expect to see more vertical integration, deeper relationships between customers & suppliers, increasing process and operational transparency, circular economy, resource efficiency, flexibility, technology replacing labour, global partnerships, and local manufacturing security of crisis triggered goods.

Management over mitigation

The past is no longer the best predictor of the future. It’s no longer perceived as feasible to foresee and mitigate risks to businesses; instead, we need to be able to quickly identify and manage risk when it impacts us in a resilient way. Expect a tone shift with ‘disruption’ now seen as an efficient trigger for continuous improvement.”

Hayley Jarick, Chief Executive Officer at Supply Chain Sustainability School

“This year has been a year of resilience, as the sudden and unexpected impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus has tested supply chains on a global scale. It brought manufacturing to a standstill, and caused months of unpredictability, for the movement of products and parts around the world. For some this impact has been extremely damaging, even fatal, for others it has delivered exciting new opportunities, with the word ‘pivot’ reaching new levels of popularity.

Swinburne University’s Dr John Hopkins.

With that in mind, 2021 is likely to be a year of recovery. Investment in automation and digitalisation will accelerate, not only as mechanisms for driving cost-savings, but for risk mitigation to future threats. Nearshoring will also be discussed, as political uncertainty and mounting tariff threats cause organisations to rethink their over-reliance on China and explore less risky options.

Online retail has been one of the big winners this year and will continue to build upon this success in 2021, requiring a readjustment of supply chains to service the growing ecommerce market. Demand for big data and artificial intelligence skills in the supply chain profession will increase, and many supply chain professionals will continue to work from home, at least some of the time.”

Dr John Hopkins, Innovation Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology

“In 2021, ALC will push for closer industry and government consultation built off the COVID response. Governments and industry worked closely to ensure freight moved efficiently across state borders while confronting and controlling the spread of COVID-19.

ALC’s Kirk Coningham.

We want to maintain this momentum, with the partnership between industry and governments delivering smart solutions to problems and real time responses to opportunities.

This will include developing policy and infrastructure to support rapid advances in technology from automation and electric delivery vehicles to data capture and analysis.

The data piece, including adoption of national data standards and a national data hub, is crucial. Strong data leads to better policy and infrastructure choices including in urban planning and with the long-term preservation of freight lands and corridors.
The City of Canning is already partnering with local supply chain companies to capture real time data on truck movements to better understand, and then fix, slow points in the system. The way of the immediate future.”

Kirk Coningham, CEO at Australian Logistics Council

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