Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

Figuring out the future in the supply chain century

Sometimes moving forward requires a look back.

And examining 2016 sure turned up a lot of supply chain and logistics news in ISE magazine: February, warehousing best practices; March, lean Six Sigma and military logistics; May, the widened Panama Canal; June, self-driving trucks; August, delivery by drones and automated vehicles; October, automatic guided vehicles for material handling; November, how a nascent internet of things was efficiently delivering nuts and bolts.

Such focus is appropriate, as the 21st is shaping up to be the supply chain century. As many have written, it's not business vs. business these days; it's supply chain vs. supply chain.

And combined with technology, consumer preferences are changing the supply chain every day. Now, customers order online from their phone while standing in the aisle – or in their pajamas at home. Robots "walk" behind warehouse workers – who use vision-guided assistance to pick loads. Various transportation options abound.

From RFID to on-demand delivery to omnichannel logistics to 3-D printing to unmanned aerial vehicles, a host of technologies and trends will affect how you get your deliverables to your customers over the next few years. Avoiding the wrong option is just as important as picking the right choice for investment.

So what does this mean for tomorrow? For that, we turn to Gina Chung of DHL, who penned December's cover story. "Identifying the Transformational Trends of Tomorrow" introduces DHL's Logistics Trend Radar, which can help supply chain leaders monitor social, business and technology developments that affect their operations.

The radar examines 26 key trends. Your organization can take the information and jump-start your analysis into where you should invest your scarce supply chain resources in the future.

So click here and start exploring the data with your customers. Perhaps you'll find the right delivery option for 2017 – or, more likely in the complex world of this supply chain century, a multitude of possibilities to choose from.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IISE. Reach him at mhughes@iise.org or (770) 349-1110.