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14 Supply Chain Trends for 2022/2023: New Predictions To Watch Out For

Supply chains are the lifeblood of most, if not all, businesses today. Keeping all supply chain components running as smoothly as possible ensures that your business can provide on-time delivery of products and services, especially with changing consumer demands and supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from reading up on the latest supply chain statistics, it’s always helpful to stay updated on the latest supply chain trends.

In this article, we’ve gathered the top predictions for supply chains, supply chain management (SCM), and even inventory management for 2021 and beyond. By staying on top of supply chain management trends and issues, you can make sure that your company can readily adapt to these changes.

key supply chain trends

SCM encompasses a broad range of activities and requires excellent attention to detail. This is why most enterprise resource planning software are designed with modules and features dedicated to SCM. Through the software, managers can optimize supply chains, keep them running as smoothly as possible, and prevent disruptions that affect customer service.

However, having these software solutions at your disposal is not enough to gain an edge over your competition. With the ongoing pandemic, a large number of SCM professionals reported experiencing disruption that forced them to change their strategies (RetailNext, 2020). These included having to adapt their supply chain for ecommerce, renegotiating contracts, as well as finding alternative sourcing options. As such, keeping tabs on industry trends will allow you to be quick on your feet and make sound business decisions.

Supply Chain Disruption During the Pandemic

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Source: RetailNext

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Given the importance of supply chains, it’s no surprise that many trends in supply chain management center around the improvement of the supply chain itself, with new business models gaining traction (SupplyChain247, 2018). Supply chain technology trends also heavily feature robotics, IoT, and blockchain, which are all projected to make the supply chain faster and less prone to disruptions (Supply Chain Management Review, 2018).

1. Supply Chains are Going Green

Climate change advocacy groups and consumers’ growing efforts to be more environmentally responsible push the supply chain to become less harmful to the environment. Electricity and transportation hugely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the US, so green logistics are quickly gaining traction among many companies today.

Green logistics is just one of the many supply chain trends affecting warehousing. Eco-friendly warehouses, for instance, feature advanced energy management systems that use timers and gauges to monitor the usage of electricity, heat, water, and gas all over facilities (Inbound Logistics, 2018). These systems help prevent excessive waste of resources. Electric and solar-powered vehicles are also seeing more use in supply chains; these vehicles help reduce the overall carbon footprint of supply chains.

Similarly, climate-smart supply chain planning is expected to play a more significant role in SCM in the next year and beyond. Environmental changes brought by climate change affect the availability of materials and resources, posing potential disruptions to supply chains. Companies will have to consider these factors and look for other resources if necessary.

Aside from doing their share to preserve the environment, businesses that adopt sustainable efforts also stand to gain more in terms of profit and customer loyalty (Nielsen, 2018). After all, more than 60% of customers don’t mind paying a premium for sustainable products. With green consumerism on the rise, more companies are expected to implement eco-friendly supply chain processes in the coming years.

Source: Statista, 2020

Key takeaways:

  • Electricity and transportation account for the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
  • More companies will adopt green logistics to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Climate-smart supply chain planning will help companies look for more sustainable resources.
  • Companies with eco-friendly business practices stand to gain more profit and customer loyalty.

2. Circular Supply Chains are the Future

Linear supply chains will soon be replaced by circular supply chains, where manufacturers refurbish discarded products for resale (East West, 2020). To deal with the rising costs of raw materials and their volatile availability, many companies are opting to break down their products and turn them back into their raw material form.

Looping the supply chain can help cut down costs, past the initial costs of putting new processes in place. With a circular supply chain, companies can spend less on raw materials and, in turn, enjoy a reduced risk of price volatility. Moreover, a circular supply chain creates less waste, helping companies reduce their overall impact on the environment. 

Stricter government regulations on recycling and waste disposal also push companies to consider adopting the circular supply chain. Businesses with sustainable practices may also stand to gain incentives for their efforts, not only from the government but also from consumers, a majority of whom prefer environmentally friendly products.

Source: Supply Chain 24/7

Key takeaways:

  • Circular supply chains will soon replace traditional linear supply chains.
  • Looping the supply chain can help companies cut down spending on raw materials.
  • Strict government regulations on recycling and waste disposal also influence the adoption of a circular supply chain.

3. More Supply Chain Integrations

The coming years will see even more components being added into the supply chain, as companies look to make partnerships and build integrations with third parties. Partnering up with third-party services can help companies reduce costs while improving customer service.

For instance, more businesses will integrate and start to offer inland services reducing overall freight costs, and streamlining the supply chain (Supply Chain Dive, 2019). Integrations are particularly useful for shippers who often use a combination of sea and land transportation for their products. With integrated services, delivery times become shorter, and customer service improves.

The Amazon Effect also pushes companies to optimize their supply chains as much as possible. As a result, more supply chain managers will be partnering up with third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and 3PL-based technologies. 3PL providers offer inbound and outbound freight management and handle order fulfillment on any channel, and companies can take advantage of these to organize their supply chains.

Similarly, 3PL-based technologies allow supply chain managers to integrate multiple management systems via API and connect them to the cloud. These integrations will enable supply chain managers to overcome the limitations of in-house technology solutions.

Companies will also seek partnerships with other businesses that incorporate digital solutions, which deliver more accurate delivery ETA estimates and cut down administrative work.

Source: Supply Chain 24/7, 2020

Key takeaways:

  • Large companies will be looking to integrate more transportation components into their supply chains to lower freight costs.
  • Furthermore, companies will partner with 3PLs and integrate 3PL-based technologies to combat the Amazon Effect.
  • 3PL-based technologies can also integrate multiple management systems via API and the cloud.

4. Workforce Globalization and Challenges

Companies can expect major changes in the labor component of the supply chains. For instance, one such change is the globalization of the workforce. A study initially predicted that 80% of manufacturers will have multi-country operations by 2020 (Capgemini, 2020). However, with the pandemic, this growth may have been affected and perhaps delayed for a few years. 

Factors such as the need for more knowledge workers influence the demand for workforce globalization. Knowledge workers—those capable of handling complex processes like analytics, procurement processing, and provision of services—drive the labor component of supply chains, and the emerging labor workforce in the US doesn’t have the training and expertise to handle these processes.

Employment opportunities in the logistics sector were cut as a result of pandemic-related restrictions. In the US, labor jobs made up 3% of the estimated 22 million jobs losses in 2020 (Protrans, 2020). More companies are trying to fill the gap by outsourcing these jobs and expanding operations to countries outside the US. Advanced IT systems, collaboration software, and sophisticated logistics setups make globalization easier for companies. 

Aside from the skills gap, the shortage of supply chain workers also stems from a lack of interest in these jobs. Experts expect warehouse and supply chain managers to offer unique benefits such as mentoring programs and tuition reimbursement to make supply chain jobs more attractive to younger generations. As such, experts predict that there will be 4% growth in the demand for logisticians and logistics managers in the US until 2029 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). 

logistics jobs

Key takeaways:

  • The expansion of manufacturers into multi-country operations may be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The lack of knowledge workers in the US pushes companies to hire workers from outside the country.
  • Moreover, companies will offer unique benefits to encourage younger generations to take supply chain jobs.

5. The Spread of SCaaS and SCM Support on Tap

Many companies today handle their supply chain activities in-house. Still, we may see more businesses adopting ‘Supply Chain as a Service’ or SCaaS business models and outsourcing activities like manufacturing, logistics, and inventory management. Companies’ supply chain management teams will soon evolve to become a smaller group of skilled individuals focused on making strategic decisions to improve the supply chain.

As in-house supply chain teams grow smaller, control towers will become more prevalent (Forbes, 2019). These advanced digital control towers give supply chain managers an end-to-end view of the supply chain. Cloud technology allows supply chain managers to access the data they need wherever they are.

Likewise, technology has innovated support for SCM. Supply chain technologies will soon be available “on tap.” Originally seen in SaaS software, this method allows companies to reduce overhead spending by avoiding fixed costs in infrastructure, upgrades, and maintenance.

Supply Chain Areas with Highest Outsourcing

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Source: SupplyChainDigest

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Key takeaways:

  • SCM teams will grow smaller as companies outsource many supply chain activities.
  • Control towers can help supply chain managers oversee the entire supply chain process anywhere and anytime.
  • SCM support will be available on tap, much like SaaS.

6. The Effects of Shorter Product Lifecycles

As product lifecycles and clock speeds become shorter, supply chains must evolve to become faster and more efficient (LinkedIn, 2018). Many companies today use a single supply chain for all products, despite the differences in these products’ life cycles. In the future, companies will have to develop different supply chains to accommodate these varying lifecycles and remain profitable.

The shorter product life cycle requires companies to rethink their supply chains and streamline processes to ensure that they can keep up with the regular demand for new products. This is why it’s alarming that as of 2017, 43% of small businesses still do manual inventory tracking (Wasp Barcode Technologies, 2017).

Luckily, there are plenty of advanced tools such as inventory management that can help SCM teams keep better track of stocks and automate order management. To this end, more companies will also be streamlining their reverse logistics processes to improve the handling of obsolete products.

small businesses track inventory manually

Key takeaways:

  • Product lifecycles are now shorter than ever, requiring supply chains to adjust.
  • Companies will soon have a distinct supply chain for each product lifecycle.

7. The Rise of Elastic Logistics

It’s not enough for supply chains to have lean processes; supply chains need to be flexible and responsive to market fluctuations as well. As a result, more businesses are adopting a flexible approach to logistics. Elastic logistics allow the supply chain to easily expand or shrink according to current market demands. Technologies such as artificial intelligence allow supply chains to adjust as needed with minimal disruptions (Material Handling & Logistics, 2019).

Elastic logistics provides flexibility to many variables in the supply chain, including sailing schedules, carrier space, container usage, and route optimization. The adjustability helps companies better handle potential issues such as overstocking and unoptimized space in vessels. As a result, businesses can enjoy greater stability and remain competitive despite market fluctuations.

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Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers

Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Cost Reduction: 85

Cost Reduction

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Visibility : 73

Visibility

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Data Management: 64

Data Management

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Transport Optimization: 59

Transport Optimization

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Customer Service/CX: 57

Customer Service/CX

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
E-Commerce/Omnichannel Enablement: 44

E-Commerce/Omnichannel Enablement

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Inventory Management: 41

Inventory Management

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Vendor Management: 38

Vendor Management

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Security : 26

Security

%
Transportation/Logistics Challenges Most Critical to Customers
Risk Management : 23

Risk Management

%

Source: Inbound Logistics

Designed by

Key takeaways:

  • Elastic logistics can make supply chains more flexible in shipping, manufacturing, and transportation, among other variables.
  • More companies will be adopting elastic logistics as a safeguard against market fluctuations.

Most Popular Inventory Management Software

  1. Brightpearl. An innovative omnichannel management tool for ecommerce businesses and retailers looking to manage orders, inventory, and customer data. Find out more about this product in our Brightpearl review.
  2. Cin7. A powerful inventory management and point-of-sale suite built for businesses of all sizes. Our Cin7 review provides comprehensive details about its capability.
  3. Hippo CMMS. A user-friendly maintenance management solution designed to help businesses manage, organize, and track maintenance operations. Our Hippo CMMS review offers a detailed product tour of this product.
  4. Fishbowl. A robust inventory management software built to help businesses track assets, oversee the production processes, and manage their warehouse. Find out more about this product in our Fishbowl review.
  5. Easyship. A cloud-based shipping software built to help ecommerce businesses streamline local and international shipping. Read our Easyship review to find out more about the product.

8. A Standard Certification Process for SCM

With the complexity of SCM, it’s not surprising why many universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in SCM. Professional associations also provide certification programs for aspiring supply chain managers (American Purchasing Society). 

However, none of these programs offer a single set of knowledge for SCM. Instead, they focus on specific activities, such as financial analysis or manufacturing. This will change in the next few years, as technologies such as IoT allow for the development and integration of a cohesive system that defines SCM. Supply chain professions will soon have a standardized certification program like those of CPAs and engineers. 

A standard certification process for SCM will ease the deployment of new systems and services. It will also help fill the current skills gap in the supply chain profession.

Key takeaways:

  • Advanced technology such as IoT allows for the development of a cohesive knowledge system for SCM.
  • Supply chain professionals will soon have a standardized certification program like CPAs and engineers.

9. Better Transparency and Visibility in the Supply Chain

Rising consumer concerns over the impact of modern business on society create a need for companies to be more transparent about supply chain externalities (Sintec). Companies have begun providing some transparency when it comes to the sustainability of their supply chains and their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Still, more visibility is needed on the impact of the supply chain on other aspects of society. The shifting nature of global trade and its corporate requirements may also result in mandatory corporate disclosures for a variety of supply chain practices. 

For instance, companies will soon have to look into providing reports on the impact of their supply chains on jobs created, sourcing practices, as well as types of labor and modes of transportation used. Disclosing information about these aspects of their supply chain can help companies enhance brand image among consumers and prepare for compliance with regulatory requirements if necessary. 

Aside from this, visibility into tier 1 suppliers is critical, especially if those suppliers come from China (Deloitte, 2020). According to a Dun & Bradstreet research, 51,000 companies worldwide have one or more direct tier 1 suppliers in China while five million have tier 2 suppliers in the region (CNBC, 2020). In light of the pandemic-related plant closures and other restrictions in these regions, it is vital to understand tier 1 supplier risk and how this will impact your extended supply network (Deloitte, 2020).

Key takeaways:

  • Consumers and global trade authorities may soon demand companies to disclose full supply chain practices and externalities.
  • Full visibility of the supply chain can improve a company’s brand image.

10. Blockchain Tools to Handle Information

Supply chain visibility remains a top concern for most companies today, so it’s not surprising that more businesses will be looking to integrate blockchain technology into their supply chains. Blockchain technology can help make the entire supply chain more transparent to minimize disruptions and improve customer service (Blockgeeks). Through blockchain, all components of the supply chain can be integrated into a single platform. 

Carriers, shipping lines, forwarders, and logistics providers can use the same platform to update companies and customers of the product journey. Invoicing and payments can be made from the same system, too. This integration streamlines the entire supply chain and helps supply chain managers to identify issues before they occur. 

Blockchain also provides unparalleled protection for information, as the technology’s decentralization methodology protects data from being edited. All users must agree to updates or edits to the data before they’re implemented. 

Key takeaways:

  • Blockchain technology can improve supply chain visibility for more efficient management.
  • Blockchain’s decentralization methodology also helps improve data security.
  • With these benefits, more businesses will adopt blockchain technology in their supply chains in the coming years.

11. Extensive Adoption of IoT

Aside from blockchain, more companies are implementing IoT devices to enhance the visibility of their supply chains (Blume Global). For instance, airplanes, trucks, and other modes of transportation can be fitted with sensors, which provide live tracking updates on shipping and delivery. IoT technology in warehouses and retail outlets can also improve visibility in production, inventory management, and predictive maintenance. 

Companies can use all these real-time information to proactively service customer demands, minimize downtime, and increase the supply chain’s overall efficiency. By increasing visibility across components of the supply chain, IoT devices can also help businesses optimize their assets and ROI. Creating a digital supply network aligned with one’s business strategy and with risk management procedures in place will help companies to build resilience to mitigate the impact of disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic (Deloitte, 2020).

Many businesses will also leverage the power of IoT by integrating the technology with core business applications such as business intelligence software. These integrations will enable analytics for the information gathered by IoT devices, allowing companies to make data-driven decisions on supply chain strategies.

Key takeaways:

  • More companies are using IoT devices to increase the transparency of the supply chain.
  • With this increased visibility, companies can optimize their ROI and improve customer service.
  • Furthermore, IoT can be integrated with core business applications for analytics.

12. Robotic Automation of the Supply Chain

Robotics currently play a huge role in transforming supply chains and SCM. During the first half of 2019 alone, North American companies spent $869 million on more than 16, 400 robots (Robotic Industries Association, 2019).

More companies today are using drones and driverless vehicles to streamline logistics operations. Companies and consumers can expect drones to become fully capable of making deliveries of small goods. Self-driving cars are also likely to be more advanced by 2020, with capabilities to make automated traffic decisions.

In warehouses, autonomous mobile robots will see more use in speeding up menial, labor-intensive tasks. Combined with efficient warehouse management software, robots can drastically improve the supply chain’s productivity.

The growing use of robots and robotic processes automation software, however, does not end in the replacement of humans (Quickbooks, 2019). The technology is intended to augment human efforts by speeding up simple, repetitive tasks. By relegating these tasks to machines, human workers can focus on higher-value tasks that have a more direct effect on business growth and customer experience.

Key takeaways:

  • North American companies spent $869 million on more than 16,400 robots during the first half of 2019.
  • More companies are incorporating drones and self-driving vehicles in their operations.
  • Robots and robotic software can speed up time-consuming, menial tasks to free up workers’ time for higher-value ones.

13. Automation Through AI, AR, and VR

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also play an essential role in making supply chains more efficient (Toward Data Science, 2019). The technology can be used to automate procedures using algorithms based on data from previous processes. Automation makes supply chains more efficient by eliminating human errors. 

AI also can identify patterns in the supply chain, and companies can leverage this technology to predict purchasing demands and manage inventory. This takes the guesswork out of planning and procurement, eliminating the need for planners to do the same calculations over and over. 

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) also pose various possibilities in improving the efficiency of supply chains. For instance, AR devices allow workers to multitask more effectively. Companies can also use these devices to enhance product development efforts by predicting potential product uses in a realistic setting.

Key takeaways:

  • Ai can make supply chains more efficient by automating procedures.
  • Additionally, companies can use AI to predict purchasing demands.
  • Companies can also use AR and VR technology to enhance worker productivity and support product development.

14. More Agile Supply Chains

Aside from climate events, new tariffs and global trade issues require companies to be more agile in terms of supply chain planning (Logistics Management, 2019). To ensure stability and maintain high service levels, companies must make sure that their supply chains are agile enough to cope with natural disasters and the shifting availability and costs of raw materials. 

Supply chain managers can take advantage of supply chain modeling solutions to predict scenarios and identify potential problems. This way, they can plan the best responses to disruptions. 

Key takeaways:

  • New tariffs and global trade issues may affect the availability and costs of materials.
  • Supply chain managers can use supply chain modeling to predict potential problems and plan the best response.

Optimize your supply chain for efficiency

The supply chain is changing, and SCM isn’t as simple as it used to be. However, advancements in technology give business owners plenty of ways to optimize their supply chains to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Staying ahead of these supply chain trends can also ensure that supply chain disruptions have minimal effect on your business. It’s never too early to get started on supply chain planning to ensure that your business’ supply chain is flexible enough to handle the effects of factors such as global trade issues, workforce shortages, and other unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’d like to streamline your business’ procurement processes, our guide on the best procurement software can help.

 

References:

  1. Berman, J. (2019). Trade tension and uncertainty from tariffs puts supply chains on alert. Retrieved from Logisitcs Management
  2. BLS (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from BLS
  3. Blume Global (n.d.). How the Internet of Things Is Transforming Supply Chain Management. Retrieved from Blume Global
  4. Capgemini (2020). Manufacturing in 2020. Retrieved from Capgemini
  5. Deloitte (2020). COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption. Retrieved from Deloitte
  6. Flovik, V. (2019). Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain Management. Retrieved from Toward Data Science
  7. Hassiotis, M.K. (2020). Building a Circular Supply Chain for a Circular Economy. Retrieved from East West
  8. Gattorna, J. (2018). Designing contemporary supply chains for faster clockspeeds to cope with the increasingly volatile operating environment. Retrieved from LinkedIn
  9. Mitra, R. (n.d.). Blockchain And Supply Chain: A Dynamic Duo. Retrieved from Blockgeeks
  10. Nielsen (2018). Sustainability Sells: Linking Sustainability Claims to Sales. Retrieved from Nielsen
  11. Powell, M. (2020). 2020-2021 State of the Logistics Industry. Retrieved from Protrans
  12. Quickbooks (2019). Cobotics, eCommerce, and the Revolution. Retrieved from Trade Gecko
  13. Rangel, G. (n.d.). Externalities of Supply Chains: Unrestricted or Opportunities to be Taken Advantage of?. Retrieved from Sintec
  14. RetailNext (2020). CEO Retailer Pulse #2. Retrieved from RetailNext
  15. Santagate, J. (2018). NextGen Supply Chain: The Robots are Here. Retrieved from Supply Chain Management Review
  16. Selko, A. (2019). Automation is Enabling Elastic Logistics. Retrieved from Material Handling & Logistics
  17. Smith, E. (2020). Coronavirus could impact 5 million companies worldwide, new research shows. Retrieved from CNBC
  18. SupplyChain247 (2018). Circular Supply Chain – The Missing Link. Retrieved from SupplyChain247
  19. Wasp Barcode Technologies (2017). State of Small Business Report. Retrieved from Wasp Barcode Technologies
Astrid Eira

By Astrid Eira

Astrid Eira is a resident B2B expert of FinancesOnline, focusing on the SaaS niche. She specializes in accounting and human resource management software, writing honest and straightforward reviews of some of the most popular systems around. Being a small business owner herself, Astrid uses her expertise to help educate business owners and entrepreneurs on how new technology can help them run their operations. She's an avid fan of the outdoors, where you'll find her when she's not crunching numbers or testing out new software.

5 Comments »
Arjun says:

Going green is definitely one of the most emerging trends in the this as well as future. The trend is not just going to be prevalent in US and developed markets but also developing economies. With a proper roadmap laid down by the respective govts., the push is soon going to become a differentiator when selecting 3PLs by many players.

However, with the increase in adaption of automation, IoT and stuff the question of many millions losing their jobs machines remains a big question, especially relating to warehousing. Pick up any warehousing activity, you have an automated solution available replacing the human touch. Solutions are coming out at even a much faster pace than ever. is this poised to become the next big problem in the Supply Chain ?

Reply to this comment »
Yueping Wang says:

After the integration of traditional supply chain management and modern technologies, such as AI, big data, robots, and other new technologies, will workers in many links of the supply chain be no longer needed? Will the number of workers in the industry be required after the development of supply chain technology? Have a significant impact?

Reply to this comment »
RONALD STORY says:

As sectors of the industry become automated via AI and robotics. Robotics will replace human activities that are repetitive. For example, the process of pickers in a DC was replaced by picker robots that reduced the amount of time a worker took to walk and grab items to bring back to his or her station. This function which was repetitive and time-consuming was replaced. Autonomous vehicles are being designed to replace long-haul truck shipments in some parts of the country. The drivers will be replaced by in my opinion IT programmers, programming the driver-less vehicles. I witness the transformation of workers in the steel industry in Steeltown, PA. The repetitive work of assembly workers at the former Westinghouse Airbrake facility in Wilmerding, PA replaced many low-skilled workers and machinists with robotic equipment. Those workers who were picked to learn programming and machine operations were able to be retained. Those that were not picked were laid off and had to seek new careers. I believe some aspects of this will be applied to solve some of the challenges within the supply chain process

Reply to this comment »
Joanna Oleśków Szłapka says:

Workers will have to adopt to these new circumstances, new skills will be required, The have to develop robots, they have to program robots, be flexible, be able to work in teams, learn faster and so on...
There is also used term Education 4.0 in terms of Logistics 4.0/ Industry 4.0

Reply to this comment »
Wei chiao says:

Outsourcing in manufacturing is changing as global manufacturing is declining as a trend so it’s is more challenging to find good suppliers in the outsourcing business.
Almost 30 years ago Singapore has manufacturing site newly located in Tuas but now the site has move to other countries from 2000. Companies has to make good business sense either to relocate or outsourcing but keeping the know how or R and D protected.

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