Moving towards the second quarter of 2022, plenty of questions abound regarding the state of the supply chain. Residual challenges stemming from the pandemic and other factors linger, while new and developing global crises present more situations that will most certainly strain an already precarious supply chain. Many consumers and businesses are closely monitoring potential disruption, from cybersecurity and inflation to the state of world peace.
With 2022 well under way, we can take measure of the current fluctuations and look to challenges and opportunities ahead for the supply chain this year. While it is difficult to make predictions in this volatile supply chain market, we may consider likely factors and players who will determine the outcome in the supply chain foundation.
Where have all the workers gone?
In a recent article shared with Forbes - and include in this blog - I mentioned that the current supply chain landscape was not going to fix itself in the beginning of 2022. We still see industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing struggle to find workers, which directly impacts supply chain operations. The Great Resignation that began in 2020 pushed its way into 2022, as nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs this January, with no signs of slowing down in the near future. This could mean continued order delays, supply shortages, and potentially unhappy distributors, retailers, and consumers.
Big wheels not turning
The recent Freedom Convoy and other truck driver blockades, protesting vaccine and mask mandates, made its way onto the world stage and took Canada and the U.S. by storm. The Ambassador Bridge, located on the Michigan-Canada border, transports $360 million worth of U.S.-Canadian trade goods every single day. And from Feb. 7 to Feb. 13, the bridge was almost completely blockaded by protesters.
Automate the workflow
In 2021, warehouse managers and leaders continued investing in automation technology to perform tasks such as inventory counts and product restocking. The market has also seen automation paired with artificial intelligence (AI) to complete more complex tasks, such as self-driving trucking and analyzing workflows.
Since businesses are implementing automation for more strategic and complex initiatives, the technologies may be used to aid the understaffed workforce. While automation will not replace the need for human workers, it can complement human activity in warehousing, trucking, and other industries along the supply chain.
Nearly half of supply chain leaders increased spending on technologies such as predictive analytics and AI during the pandemic. Spending will likely continue to climb in 2022 considering the operational efficiency it provides and its other time-tested benefits.
Rolling in the Clouds
Over the past several years, many organizations turned to cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for a more secure and reliable way to map out and oversee supply chain operations. Mobile support for ERP solutions is becoming abundant, especially as organizations continue to operate in a remote or hybrid environment. 2020-2021 underscored the ability to access critical information in real time, from anywhere. I anticipate the cloud to increasingly become a common tool for smaller businesses as it is for larger organizations.
Moving further into 2022, many of the supply chain woes we faced in 2021, along with rising fuel costs, will continue to hinder operations, even as we see new disruptions arise. However, we now have the knowledge to maintain operational efficiency and continue business growth. With this knowledge, we can navigate 2022 with experience, a skilled workforce, and a technology-driven strategy.