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The logistics and supply chain trends to watch in 2021

6 months ago by
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​The chaos of 2020 caused numerous challenges for the logistics and supply chain industry in Australia. Hopefully, the supply chain trends for 2021 don’t include last year’s pandemic-induced shutdowns, work-from-home challenges, and disruption to the flow of international supplies. One thing we’ve learned from COVID—we can never be too sure what the future holds. But what we can do is explore the new initiatives that are emerging locally, to pinpoint trends for the industry in the year ahead. Let’s dive in. 

Supply chain trend #1: Increase in voice technology 

If you’ve ever used your voice to conduct a Google search, if you use a home automation system to turn on the lights, check the weather or find you a recipe for dinner tonight, you know the power of voice automation. By wearing a headset that sends verbal instructions through a connected mobile device, workers can follow automated instructions while keeping their hands free for tasks. Voice recognition software also enables workers to prompt equipment to respond to commands, even in noisy, warehouse environments. 

Using voice technology in supply chain environments offers numerous benefits: 

  • increased productivity as workers receive instructions via headset as each task is complete 

  • better delivery of step-by-step instructions reduces chances of mistakes 

  • easy to learn, making onboarding new staff simpler and faster

  • keeps workers’ hands and eyes free, reducing distractions and enhancing productivity 

  • improves mobility of workers, as they’re not tied to desks or computer screens 

  • can be configured for multiple languages, eliminating communication problems for workers with different native tongues. 

Voice automation is suitable for a broad variety of supply chain applications, especially order fulfillment in ecommerce (as well as managing customer returns). Voice inspection software can also be used in the maintenance of equipment, enabling faster processes, reducing equipment downtime and slashing time spent in data entry. 

 The Australian arm of voice automation consultants, Körber Supply Chain Group, says that voice directed warehouse operations can deliver up to: 

  • 35% increase in productivity

  • 25% improvement in accuracy 

  • 50% less training time 

If those are the kind of benefits you’d like to be reporting at the end of 2021, perhaps it’s time to explore the benefits of voice automation. 

Supply chain trend #2: Virtual reality staff training 

Gone are the days of three days of staff training conducted in a meeting room with a whiteboard. People learn by doing, and virtual reality training is a brilliant way to teach staff. Immersing staff in virtual reality simulations gives them the real-life effect, where they can be confident to test what they’ve learned in a safe environment, using realistic simulations that mimic real-life scenarios. It’s particularly effective for teaching staff complex sequences of tasks.

Sydney based virtual reality provider, Curiious, offers VR learning for staff training, and says that using the technology can reduce training times by up to 70%. VR learning means that expensive equipment doesn’t need to be used in training scenarios, ensuring factory floor production is not compromised while learning takes place. Virtual training is ideal for OH&S training, particularly when teaching staff how to follow procedures where mistakes are laden with risk to people, property or assets.  

In 2019, Curiious created a virtual reality training solution for LINX Cargo Group with the aim of reducing accidents and increasing engagement with training programs. Six months after creating a custom virtual reality training solution, they delivered impressive results:

  • 71% increase in reporting hazards

  • engagement in safety programs increased by 32% 

  • near miss reports increased by 90% 

  • recordable injuries decreased by 10%

  • severity 1 and 2 incidents decreased by 40%. 

With proven results like this, virtual reality training is one supply chain trend for 2021 you’d benefit from considering! 

Supply chain trend #3: scenario planning

The companies that responded well to the COVID-19 pandemic either were lucky, or they’d done some form of scenario planning to prepare for potential eventualities. Australian supply chain consulting firm, GRA, suggests that a strategic approach to ‘what if’ scenarios in internal and external operating environments using scenario planning can deliver immense benefits. These include faster decision making and more confidence in responding swiftly to changing competitor, consumer and supply chain landscapes. 

In a 2020 whitepaper on scenario planning, GRA shares its work with leading food manufacturer Simplot. Navigating seasonal impacts on the supply of food alongside demanding clients in the fast food and supermarket industries means that Simplot relies on a two-year forecast for its supply chain. Accurate scenario planning allows Simplot to navigate the complex and changing environment in which it operates. Simplot worked with GMA to focus on reliable information that features a well-tuned planning system, strong understanding of costs and prioritisation of data accuracy. This has resulted in Simplot achieving a better understanding of its ability to manage its own future capacity to deliver on potential contracts. This knowledge has allowed its management team to respond swiftly to win large contracts. The GRA scenario planning strategy helped lock out the competition and delivered a clear competitive advantage. 

Supply chain trend #4: local manufacturing 

KPMG predicts that local manufacturing will be invigorated following the pandemic crisis. Consumers want to support local business, and some manufacturers are having international supply chain and logistics troubles. Meanwhile, tensions between Australia and China have resulted in Chinese tariffs against Australian produce, meaning that local manufacturers may seek to increase local market share to ease the burden. 

KPMG anticipates that advanced manufacturing is set to benefit from these circumstances, as it can supplement local operations with technology such as 3D printing, high-tech automation and robotics.

The College for Adult Learning agrees, anticipating that ‘demand for Australian goods will increase during 2021 and beyond.’ It also notes that the Australian government is investing heavily in championing Australian-made products to encourage this trend. 

The key takeaway for this prediction is to market your Australian-made credentials well, as it is often a key point of difference to local consumers. 

Supply chain trend #5: employability 

Deloitte’s 2018 Future of Work report into Occupational and Educational Trends in the Supply Chain and Logistics in Australia, found that the industry employs nearly 150,000 Australians and is expected to grow by 2% in 2021. (Keeping in mind that this report was commissioned pre-COVID). Industry growth is expected to fuel demand for qualified workers, ‘particularly those who understand logistic systems, strategic management and using data to make better operational decisions.’

“As business models continue to evolve in an increasingly digitised economy, a range of employment opportunities will open up to supply chain professionals with a suitable mix of skills.” – Professor Booi Kam, RMIT University

Put simply, this is an industry where opportunities abound. As new technology evolves, demand for experts in these fields rise exponentially. Organisations seeking a competitive edge will either secure third-party expert consultants, or seek to hire in-house expert teams. If that’s your organisation, MTC Recruitment is well placed to help you find the ideal candidate. Our experts can help with recruitment for the supply chain and logistics industry, from factory floor workers, to senior strategists and expert consultants. If you’d like to explore what MTC Recruitment can offer, please get in touch

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