Supply chain pros can’t keep up with complexity

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

HAMBURG – Supply chain professionals worldwide report growth in complexity in the last year and say they aren’t keeping up.

More products, distribution channels, and customer expectations make supply chains more complex. A new survey by Körber has found that 91 percent of supply chain professionals feel they cannot stay ahead of the challenges this presents in manufacturing and fulfillment.

Technology integration and customer demand ranked among the top challenges today’s supply chains face. The top five issues contributing to supply chain complexity include:

  • Integrating and ensuring software, materials handling equipment (MHE), and technologies work together throughout the entire logistics ecosystem (cited by 48 percent);
  • Integrating functions across the supply chain – from manufacturing to end-customer deliveries (cited by 46 percent);
  • Meeting consumer expectations for speed, cost and adaptability (cited by 46 percent)
  • Integrating with third-party logistics (42 percent)
  • Handling returns (31 percent)

While automation is widely regarded as one way to simplify operations, respondents are still relying on manual workflows in many key areas. The survey found that approximately one in four supply chain professionals still rely entirely on manual
methods somewhere in their warehouse.

Packing and shipping are the most automated functions; still, fewer than a third of supply chain professionals say these processes are fully automated. And the manual challenges start long before packaging: 34 percent still rely entirely on manual methods for receiving; 28 percent for storing; and 24 percent for picking.

More businesses are paying attention to these supply chain headaches. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents said senior executives view the supply chain as mission-critical – an important step in gaining support for upgrading warehouses and last mile technology.

“Now isn’t the time for supply chains to break under pressure – yet, 48 percent of companies have experienced growth in complexity this past year,” said Rene Hermes, chief marketing officer for Körber Supply Chain.

“It’s good to hear so many executives see this business area as mission-critical. Now we must transform that understanding into action.”

For its 2020 State of Supply Chain Complexity survey Körber polled 1,200 global supply chain professionals to learn how they cope with supply chain complexity, how they feel their solutions stack up against the competition and how they’re managing the transition from manual to automated processes.