Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 22 seconds

crystal ball 0It’s that time of year. Industry experts, high level consultants, research institutions, and famous pundits make predictions about the upcoming year, while conveniently failing to mention how their predictions from last year turned out. Hey, why can't I take a shot at that?

 

I’m not only as well-read on supply chain topics as those other guys, but my predictions from last year (risk management, sustainability, omni-channel retail, and big data) were pretty darn solid, if I do say so myself.

It doesn’t take Nostradamus to clearly see that 2014 will be an interesting year for those of us in the supply chain and electronic commerce worlds. New technologies, consumers driving the retail bus, global opportunities and threats…. It’ll be a wild ride! What will dominate the news that matters to us next year? I’m glad you asked!

  • Big Data. Based on how many times you heard that phrase in 2013, you probably think it’s played out by now. It’s not. Big Data (and more importantly, the ability to analyze and use it) has the potential to affect not only every aspect of the supply chain, but also every nook and cranny of all business processes and human life. You’ll continue to see articles about new and future uses of the technology. It’s a long way from being an exhausted subject.

 

  • Robots. Yes, robots are becoming more and more integrated into business processes. As leading companies like Amazon, which purchased robot manufacturer Kiva, adopt their use, others will be right behind them struggling to keep up. As electronic commerce grows and more distribution centers are built to support logistical needs, you’ll see robot-staffed facilities being developed from the ground up and their efficiency and effectiveness will be evident.

 

  • Drones. Many think that Amazon’s splash with their future delivery by drone demonstration was a marketing ploy or publicity stunt. It may well have been, but as the FAA gets the guidelines established you’ll see more and more uses of this technology popping up. Traffic, agriculture, mapping, and myriad other uses will be found, and a lot of it will be relevant to supply chains.

 

  • Last Mile. Much has been written about the topic of the ‘last mile’ logistics challenge. Some of it is definitely related to improvements in the actual delivery of product to the end-user, but another side that’s being looked at very strongly is more tied to immediate delivery to consumers and the use of shopping ‘agents’. Google, Amazon, and eBay are all testing concepts, and the stakes are high. A recent article in the New York Times (READ IT HERE) does a great job looking at the extremes this approach is being taken to…. Is it scalable? Stay tuned throughout the year.

 

  • M2M. I wrote about the Internet of Things (a.k.a. Machine-to-Machine or the Industrial Internet) awhile ago (READ HERE), and all I can say is that this topic may be a bit under the radar since it’s pretty geeky and relatively un-sexy, but there’s nothing out there more powerful. When you combine Big Data, the pervasive use of sensors, smart design, great analytics, robotics, ubiquitous wireless communication, and massive data processing capabilities, you will experience an incredible number of improvements to everyday life. You may not see daily update articles about M2M progress, but behind the scenes the future is being designed and built based on machine-to-machine interaction.

We’re heading into an unbelievably interesting year. It’s a great time to be in a supply chain or electronic commerce role, and I bet that the topics described above will greatly affect your work throughout the year. Oh, you’ll continue to see articles on omnichannel retail, smartphone based ecommerce, and the like, but you should already be pretty conversant on those subjects. I may be a bit ahead of the curve on a couple of the above predictions, but trust me: they’ll be part of your future!

Happy New Year! Last modified on Friday, 03 January 2014
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