Future-proof your supply chain for 2025 and beyond 

by Brent Dawkins

It’s no secret that events like COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have continued to impact and alter the supply chain. Other issues like extreme weather, massive labor shortages, and changing governmental regulations pertaining to issues like environmental and due diligence policies all point to a clear sign of fundamental shifts across all industries and the necessity of being prepared for the unexpected.  

The supply chain had been facing significant upheavals long before the pandemic. In 2020, analysts were already forecasting a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.2 percent for the global supply chain market from 2020 to 2027, resulting in a US$21.56 billion market value increase.

These projections have proven true, even throughout the pandemic. In Q1 of 2022, the value of world merchandise exports increased 16 percent, according to the World Trade Organization. As more customers shop online and expect goods to arrive at their doors faster than ever, the culprit to this fluctuation and variability in trade is simply that supply chains are not keeping up with the latest technology to stay ahead of the curve.

While many blame it on “The Amazon Effect,” where there is an ever-increasing demand for quick fulfillment and deliveries, this market shift was inevitable, and these current issues are simply catalysts to expedited change.  

It’s time companies adapt and evolve. Here are some ways to future-proof your supply chain for 2025 and beyond:  

Embrace digitization

It wasn’t too long ago that the process of aggregating and analyzing data took a team of people. They would first have to compile and analyze pages upon pages of spreadsheets – or even place post-it notes on a bulletin board – before a decision could be made weeks later.

Technology offers a better way, but for many, there remains a large opportunity to boost digital efforts. In fact, according to Gartner’s 2021 Future of Supply Chain survey, only one percent of supply chain leaders have a digital ecosystem, but 23 percent of supply chain leaders expect to have one by 2025. 

A digital ecosystem is a framework of software and technology that creates a cohesive digital strategy across an organization. When it comes to the supply chain, this could translate to global trade and transportation execution (GTTE) software that provides an adaptive solution to manage global trade, compliance and distribution activities. GTTE digitizes the supply chain and automates processes, providing access to a global trade network and real-time information to control costs, mitigate risk and rapidly adapt to changing regulations.  

#1. To future-proof your supply chain, find ways to digitize and transform each process.  

For example, perform a time-to-value study to identify areas to automate. This can be easily done by using a timer to track the duration of printing to processing to loading inventory. Even something as simple as the amount of time it takes to print a carrier compliant shipping label can make all the difference. If it takes under a second to print a label, you can process 1,000 labels in less than 17 minutes. If it takes two seconds, you’re looking at more than half an hour. That’s not a big deal if you are processing only 1,000 parcels a day. But if you are shipping 10,000, 20,000 or more parcels a day, those extra seconds add up. 

In addition, today’s digital supply chain tools have the ability to quickly find the fastest route or cheapest carrier in real time, allowing for instant decision making to meet customer expectations. Plus, with the proper software, they’re all located in one platform, with easy to read reports. With greater digital connectivity with supply chain partners and without the need for all the extra steps, both shipping and labor costs are cut, while productivity is improved. 

Shift to e-commerce

Digital transformation can lead to entirely new business models that factor in the growing e-commerce sector, whether business-to-consumer or business-to-business. According to the same Gartner survey, 79 percent of supply chain leaders think that an internet- or platform-based approach is the most critical new business model to support post-pandemic recovery.  

#2. Future-proof your supply chain by building scalable capacity. 

Now, more than ever, consumers are buying online and the number is only increasing. A good supply chain partner will help assess customer needs and identify the right software to support them. Having a model that supports market shifts like the e-commerce boom and COVID-19 will make sense for the bottom line while improving customer experience.  

Go to the cloud

Without a finger on the pulse of the customer, companies will inevitably lag behind. They have to adapt to the constantly evolving trends. Gartner/Oxford reports that 98 percent of supply chain leaders believe working from home will increase over the next five years. This will require a completely new strategy to find cohesion among departments to keep the supply chain moving.

With so many businesses still reliant on manual processes and legacy technologies, not only is supply slowing down, but collaboration is becoming nearly impossible. In a 2021 Oxford Economics procurement survey, 38 percent of organizations are still stuck using manual procurement processes (like phone calls and spreadsheets) as their primary method of communication with external supply chain partners, taking up to weeks to make sure everyone is properly looped in. 

#3. Future-proof and unify these connections by moving to the cloud.  

Platforms that utilize the cloud are able to access real-time visibility into supply chain conditions. Without being solely reliant on the information provided by one facility or one carrier at a time, quick access to all locations’ data across the supply chain’s business network and cloud platform allows organizations, and their supply chain partners, to respond and adapt quickly.

Quicker visibility can greatly improve supply chain performance by enabling faster and more cost-efficient delivery of products, enhancing products’ traceability and improving coordination between supply chain partners. Your access to this information and subsequent reaction can be the difference between business resilience and ongoing customer satisfaction or delayed orders, unhappy customers and spiraling costs. Cloud technology brings a company into the future by adopting a collaboration process that is no longer linear, but one that is connected by many branches, ultimately minimizing risks that arise. 

Trade compliance 

This future-proof tip simply requires you to be diligent on a global scale. Avoid complications that can cause costly fines or reputational damage by becoming well-versed in trade compliance.  

#4. Future-proof your supply chain by putting trade compliance at the forefront to mitigate potential disruptions.  

An effective global trade management solution reduces the risk of non-compliance, avoids delays at the border and simplifies import/export processes. For example, knowing the specific requirements of a cross-border transaction or the exact tariff implications helps the company better plan and execute global trade and transportation–at a lower cost and quicker timeframe. 

Localize the stock 

You can even take it a step further by taking advantage of Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZs). FTZs, also referred to internationally as “free-trade zones”, are areas where goods may be landed, handled, manufactured or reconfigured, and re-exported without the intervention of the customs authorities. The companies that have leveraged these zones drastically reduce or eliminate duty costs, encourage domestic trade and improve supply chain productivity. 

Even with an ability to communicate and collaborate instantly on a global scale, the final future-proofing tip is to reassess offshoring strategies and bringing some of the supply closer to the demand. Investing in local sources like FTZs or regional manufacturers will increase the supply chain’s resilience and the agility needed to go to local markets or meet global regulations. 

Looking ahead 

Ultimately, the future is now for supply chain professionals to boost digital efforts and connect more tightly with partners. It’s important to assess the potential of digitization on current processes and the deployment of a connected ecosystem with other firms. Yes, this requires a resource commitment but the investment results in improved supply chain performance and competitive advantages. Following these four tips not only gives companies a competitive edge, they will help shield from future unplanned disruptions.  


Brent Dawkins is product marketing director, QAD Precision GTTE