If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that we should expect the unexpected. Numerous experts have made forecasts about where the world is headed; many have been proven right while others have been far off the mark. While we can’t know for certain what the supply chain of tomorrow looks like, based on industry performance and recent developments there are a variety of key supply chain industry trends we expect to continue in the near future. In this blog column, we’ll take a closer look at some of our 2022 supply chain industry predictions.
Trucking Industry Shortages
We’ll continue to see challenges moving freight across the country throughout all of 2022. A shortage of truck drivers remains a key barrier to shoring up the supply chain due to the ripple effects of the pandemic, which temporarily closed trucking schools, and pummeled restaurant suppliers and other industries while significantly straining demand elsewhere. But even beyond the pandemic, the trucking industry is, and has been, going through big changes:
- Multiple truck fleets have been taken off the road due to rising insurance costs;
- Tens of thousands of drivers have retired or will be retiring soon;
- Newcomers to the workforce aren’t lining up to take on the unique challenges of a trucking career; and
- There are ongoing disparities between driver satisfaction and compensation.
As we continue to progress inevitably toward a more automated supply chain, we’ll eventually see driverless trucks on the roads, as we’ve been beginning to see in Europe and Asia. These vehicles will likely still require operators, just as a jumbo jet on autopilot still requires a human at the controls — but nevertheless, this innovation will alter the landscape of the industry even further.
Continuing Retail/E-Commerce Headaches
Any list of 2022 supply chain industry predictions would be remiss without mention of the ongoing supply chain difficulties that have dominated the headlines. We can expect this trend to continue this year, even as we move beyond the current COVID-19 surge. Ongoing pandemic-related issues, including rent abatements and child-care challenges, have slowed the rebuilding of the workforce. Other issues include:
- Continued backups at the ports;
- Slower production of materials and finished goods;
- Volatile spikes in demand for certain categories of products; and
- The highest annual inflation rate in 30 years.
We will continue to see a lag in the availability of seasonal items, which presents retailers with numerous headaches; some items that can’t be sold within the appropriate season will need to be stored till next year, while items that go out of fashion will find their way to discount chains. The holiday season’s hottest gadgets will be scarce and more expensive, and consumers will need to adjust their expectations.
The Evolution of Supply Chain Technologies
Supply chain advances that once seemed like science fiction has become commonplace. Drones, robotic manufacturing equipment, autonomous vehicles, and other technological innovations have become a more regular sight in factories and fulfillment centers. Here at iGPS Logistics, thanks to technological leaps in automation, our new state-of-the-art pallet manufacturing facility needs only a handful of human beings to operate at full capacity.
And automation will, of course, help speed the global supply chain’s recovery, because it helps balance out hiring and staffing challenges. But the irony of our present situation is that the development and installation of new technologies is itself impacted by the supply chain slowdown. Materials and parts needed for robots, for example — everything from semiconductor chips to suction cups — are in high demand and more difficult to come by.
Things will begin to normalize, but it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, our efforts to get the supply chain on track will require creative thinking and hard work from supply chain stakeholders throughout the industry, as well as good humor and patience from the customers and end-consumers we all serve.
Companies impacted by ongoing supply chain challenges can improve their efficiencies and optimization by using iGPS plastic pallets for all their shipping needs. Our pallets are lighter, stronger, safer, and can help reduce your Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.