The problem with trends is that they are hard to predict. Everyone starts following it when it arrives but very few can accurately predict it. Bearing that in mind, here are ten supply chain trends to watch out for in 2017:

1. Bigger Data, Empowered decisions:

Business intelligence tools have been in use for a while; but supply chain stakeholders still depend on IT resources to access reports. Modern supply chains rely on easy-to-use tools that allow everyone in the organization to create their own reports and dashboards with the data gathered from many sources which means anyone can pull up their own reports at any time.

2. Automation takeover:

As supply chains get more digitized, automation will replace the manual process of data collection, consolidation and sharing. A lot of firms still depend on spreadsheets for inventory management and planning but expect automation to replace these processes in 2017.

3. Real-time Communication:

Mobile supply chain ERPs will make order status, system alerts, stock information and other details instantly accessible to everyone — anytime, from anywhere — providing a consistent source of information in real-time.

4. Metrics that can be acted upon:

Most supply chains today are focusing upon actionable metrics based on Lean and Six Sigma principles. New metrics that can be used to improve the flow of data across the supply chain and delivery will become popular in 2017.

5. Cloud Technology and SaaS delivery:

Many companies are turning to the cloud for adding value to their existing systems. Cloud-based supply chain ERP will bring down costs and are highly flexible. Planning and production processes will also adapt to changing business needs with an increasing usage of cloud ERPs.

6. Better ERP Security:

With more regulations, increasing security threats and new technologies, sophisticated supply chain ERPs have resulted in security becoming more critical and complex. As the number of threats have risen, better ERP security features will be introduced.

7. Disruption from the IoT:

There are six billion IoT devices in use today with another 21 billion in the next three years. Sensors are being rapidly integrated into supply chains. This means that there will be a rise in the data being generated. Supply chains need to have the capability to handle this enormous volume of information.

8. 3-d Printing will transform Manufacturing:

Worldwide sales of 3D printers doubled in 2016, and 6.7 million will ship in 2020. 3-D printing will revolutionize production and transform inventory and logistics. Manufacturers will store parts in software rather than on shelves and the inventory will be digitized.

9. Robotics will infuse the Supply Chain:

Robotics is projected to grow by 10% annually over the next decade and will soon handle 40% of manufacturing. Technologies such as smart glasses will also transform training and field service. The result will be a gift to manufacturers, accelerating production and field service, lowering the cost of labor, and reducing errors in the factory, the warehouse, and the field.

10. The rise of drones:

In October 2016, Uber’s self-driving truck made its first autonomous delivery, 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer. Amazon is trying to deliver its packages through drones. Google and Walmart are also researching on these autonomous vehicles. The rise of drones will have an impact on shipping companies like UPS and FedEx and 2017 will be an interesting time to see how they respond.

2017 will be a very important year for most businesses and the faster they respond to the evolution of new technologies, the better they will be able to survive in the market. Although some of these trends might take time to become commonplace, they will definitely drive the trends this year.

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