Perhaps the foremost change many companies are looking to make to "future-proof" their operations is by automating more aspects of their normal practices, according to a recent industry survey from Honeywell Intelligrated. This was true for more than half of executives polled, and likely indicates an area of significant growth for the year to come, at a minimum. However, as with past efforts to follow through on automation, it's not likely to be easy, especially due to maintenance costs.
While companies are certainly conscious of the impact this could have on staffing, especially for lower-skill jobs in their warehouses, they also say adding automation means hiring new professionals who can work with these machines and systems, the report said. With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that 43% of respondents listed improving automation processes as being among their top three business priorities for the next year-plus.
Still grappling with the novel coronavirus
Of course, it's worth noting that while vaccines are rolled out to millions of Americans and to people around the world, the likelihood is that COVID-19 will still have a big impact on regional, national and global supply chains for at least the first half of 2021, if not more. To that end, 90% of companies in the retail and consumer goods sectors say they are still enacting plans to change their supply chains because of the pandemic, according to Bain & Company.
In fact, more than 40% of respondents said they plan to increase investment in the supply chain so they can become quicker, more agile and more resilient overall, the report said. That was true even if it came at greater expense; the share of companies listing cost efficiency as being among their top two concerns slipped 13 points, while increased agility jumped by nearly double that amount.
Sustainability is the key
Whenever changes are made to companies' processes, those making the ultimate decisions have a responsibility to ensure whatever changes they put into place are built to last, and ferry them through any new challenges that may emerge, according to Supply Chain Digital. Often, that comes through in the need to simultaneously operate with greater efficiency and transparency, but also require a rollout of technological solutions that give them larger quantities of more accurate data on an ongoing basis.
Whatever solutions companies arrive at in the new year, and throughout the coming decades, cannot be viewed as "set it and forget it." As the pandemic has shown, even the best-run supply chains are vulnerable to outside factors that cannot be accounted for, making agility a critical goal for any supply chain organization.