The past year-plus has seen a lot of ups and downs for companies at all stages of the supply chain, and many are only now beginning to get back to normal operations after months of adapting to pandemic norms. However, those within the industry are expressing some optimism about what comes next, to the point that only 10% of industry insiders responding to a recent poll indicated a pessimistic outlook for the year ahead.

Indeed, 70% of supply chain executives polled in a GlobalTranz Enterprises survey said that they thought the rollout of the various COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and around the world would result in new customers for their companies. Furthermore, 94% anticipate a robust economic recovery in light of widespread vaccinations.

Meanwhile, there were some areas of concern for these companies, including nearly 2 in 5 who cited higher transport costs, and 31% who were worried about not having enough workers on staff to meet consumer demand, the survey showed. Slightly more also said they were concerned about having enough materials on hand to match demand. However, to that end, close to 4 in 5 of companies are prioritizing increased warehouse space this year, and even more will invest in supply chain visibility. Beyond that, more execs are also interested in localizing their supply chains where they can, including reshoring operations.

Supply chain managers should always strive to understand strengths and weaknesses.Supply chain managers should always strive to understand strengths and weaknesses.

How did we get here?
A similar survey from Fictiv, as part of the firm's 2021 State of Manufacturing Report, found that the outbreak was a reality check in terms of helping companies re-prioritize their efforts and make sure they are more closely aligned with their ongoing needs. In fact, 95% of industry leaders polled said they now realize how widely the pandemic affected their business, and that digital transformation is going to be necessary when it comes to ensuring future success within the industry.

At the same time, 94% of respondents said they recognized issues with the current supply chains and many are trying to "future-proof" their operations. That includes 89% who are looking at more sustainable manufacturing, 84% that are shifting to a more on-demand model, and 62% pursuing reshoring efforts.

Beyond that, 55% of manufacturing insiders said their biggest barrier to reshoring is a lack of workforce training, well ahead of issues such as cost, lack of capacity or technological shortcomings — cited by 43%, 36% and 31%, respectively.

Overcoming obstacles
Of course, companies may have any number of goals as it relates to being better supply chain partners or improving processes. However, many companies now rely on highly complex webs of relationships with partners and clients that make these improvements complicated, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. As such, it may be wise to start with improving customer service or partner relations, as this can help grease the skids and increase their base of knowledge and dependability for others. Once that is done, it allows companies to pivot more of their efforts to internal improvements.

Obviously, there is no silver bullet to consistently successful supply chain operation, and you should always be looking for ways to get the most out of everything you do.

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