Challenges remain as supply chain stability gradually returns

Avatar photo
by Emily Atkins

Last year saw improved supply chain stability set against several variables that are still driving continued fragility, a new survey has found.

The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) and KPMG have released the latest findings from the KPMG Supply Chain Stability Index, which is designed to help supply chain professionals understand the stability of U.S. operations, and serve as a barometer for the greater global supply chain community.

The index suggests a complete return to pre-pandemic normalcy remains unlikely in 2024. Factors that have contributed to recent instability include cross-border patrol closures between U.S. and Mexico trade corridors and rising conflicts leading to commercial ship attacks in the Red Sea. However, there are also positive signs including greater nearshoring efforts in Mexico and Canada, reducing reliance on other regions.  

“While supply chain challenges do persist, the overall return to increased levels of stability is a testament to the incredible efforts of countless supply chain professionals,” said ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE.

“The index continues to confirm that people make all the difference. We must continue cultivating supply chain talent to mitigate disruptions, build resiliency and drive growth.” 

Jim Lee, supply chain AI leader at KPMG, said,the logistics sector continues to face significant challenges due to geopolitical factors and volume fluctuations. He sugested is important for supply chains to remain vigilant and adopt resilient strategies for continued progress. 

Moving forward, the adoption of best practices, leveraging digital technology, and developing workforce skills will distinguish leading companies from their counterparts.

Inventory levels, inflated during the pandemic, are now strategically decreasing throughout the supply chain, indicating a shift toward optimized inventory management. Purposeful efforts across all nodes in the supply chain are leading to improvements in inventory. 

The competition for talent, notably for entry-level roles across the entire supply chain, persists, albeit with a slight alleviation from previous intensity. Lower unemployment rates and increased automation adoption are key factors contributing to this evolving trend. 

Geopolitical tensions persist, disrupting the global movement of goods, notably impacting ocean freight, especially between Asia and the European Union, and to a lesser degree, the United States. These factors underscore ongoing residual risks within the sector. 

“As we navigate the complexities of modern supply chains, having actionable insights is paramount and this Index helps shed light on risks that remain as well as areas of progression. For example, we’re now seeing just-in-time inventory strategies making a comeback and the competitive talent market beginning to ease, thanks to the effective use of technology,” said ASCM executive vice-president of strategy and alliances Douglas Kent.

“We must continue to leverage data to monitor and adapt to the complex and ever-evolving supply chain landscape.”