Transparency and sustainability new focus for supply chain, says annual MHI report

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by Emily Atkins

Nearly three quarters of supply chain leaders are increasing their supply chain technology and innovation investments according to an industry report released at ProMat 2023 by MHI in collaboration with Deloitte.

This investment includes solutions for improved supply chain transparency and sustainability, according to the 2023 MHI Annual Industry Report, The Responsible Supply Chain: Transparency, Sustainability, and the Case for Business. The report provides insight into trends and technologies that are transforming supply chains and the priorities of the people who run them.

The 2023 report, the tenth in a series of annual industry reports published by MHI and Deloitte, provides updates on the innovative technologies that have the most potential to transform supply chains into more transparent, sustainable, and responsible operations.

“Responsible supply chains must react in real-time to changing conditions, this requires actionable data, automation and automated decision-making,” said John Paxton, CEO of MHI.

“Investments in automation and other digital solutions like IoT, advanced analytics and AI not only arm your operations with speed, accuracy, and improved visibility. These solutions enable the real-time decision-making and transparency necessary for reporting and improving performance up and down the responsible supply chain.”

Workforce top challenge

Once again, hiring and retaining qualified workers (57 percent) and the talent shortage (56 percent) were the top supply chain challenges cited by survey respondents. This was followed closely by supply chain disruptions (54 percent), out-of-stock situations (52 percent) and customer demands (52 percent).

The worker shortage is spurring companies to invest in technologies that not only improve agility and efficiency but also reduce the need for repetitive, manual labour. These investments create the kind of advanced technology environment that results in more rewarding supply chain jobs that appeal to today’s top talent.

This could provide a new path to upskilling current employees and attracting new talent – creating a more modern, capable workforce that can quickly adapt and adjust to changes in the technology and market landscape.

The integration of robotics into operations is seen as one solution to the labour shortage, but it’s not without challenges. “A large obstacle for organizations looking to invest in robotics is perception management. Largely, this technology is not brand-new but has matured over years to reduce errors, risk and dependency on labour,” said Jake Heldenberg, head of solution design at Vanderlande.

“Depending on the organization’s use case, robotics are likely the next advancement to automate more complex tasks to achieve significant increases in throughput while upskilling labour.”

Sustainability

Supply chain companies are faced with increasing pressure to become more environmentally responsible and sustainable. In fact, nearly half of this year’s survey respondents (48 percent) say they face increased influences to adopt a more sustainable supply chain. The pressure is coming from many angles, including consumers, regulators, industry groups, traditional and social media, and other stakeholders that increasingly expect brands and their supply chains to adhere to their own high standards.

“As leaders, we must drive transparency and coordinate change across the end-to-end supply chain as we work collaboratively to reduce Scope 3 emissions and move toward the circular economy,” said Paxton.

“Sustainability will become a key competitive advantage for in the future. Investments in sustainability and transparency help reduce risk exposure and build loyalty with customers and employees alike.”