Need for Resilience Amid Pandemic Disruption Powering Digital Supply Chain Investments

New report highlights trends and technologies that are helping supply chains respond, recover and thrive in unprecedented times

Nearly half of supply chain leaders surveyed have dramatically accelerated spending on digital technologies to make their operations more responsive and forward-looking during the pandemic, according to an industry report released today by MHI in collaboration with Deloitte.
 
Cloud computing, robotics and inventory/network optimization tools saw the biggest jump in terms supply chain investment, with 49% of survey respondents increasing spending, according to the 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Innovation Driven Resilience: How Technology and Innovation Help Supply Chains Thrive in Unprecedented Times,” which provides new insights into trends and technologies that are having a dramatic business impact on supply chains and the people who run them.
 
A great majority of respondents, 83% believe digital supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years – 22% believe they are now. The survey results also suggest that investments in supply chain innovation continues to be strong. 
 
For many organizations, the pandemic has been a trigger for increased technology investment. Companies projecting to invest at least $5 million in the next two years will be focusing on each of the technologies covered by the survey. These proactive investments can help improve supply chain agility and resiliency in times of disruption.
 
57% plan to spend more than $10 million on robotics and automation
48% plan to spend more than $10 million on cloud computing
43% plan to spend more than $10 million on predictive and prescriptive analytics
26% plan to spend more than $10 million on artificial intelligence
 
This year’s report, the eight in a series of annual industry reports published by MHI and Deloitte, provides updates on the innovative technologies that have the most potential to transform supply chains. The report also covers the potential for these technologies to disrupt the industry as well as their adoption rates and common barriers to adoption. The eleven technologies covered in the report are:
 
—Artificial Intelligence
—Predictive analytics 
—Inventory and network optimization 
—Robotics and automation 
—Wearable and mobile technology
—Driverless vehicles and drones 
—3D printing 
—Internet of Things
—Cloud computing and storage
—Sensors and automatic identification 
—Blockchain

Supply chain technologies are driving resiliency
According to this year’s respondents, nearly all the advanced digital technologies covered by the survey are expected to achieve widespread adoption within the next 1-2 years.
 
Cloud computing and storage has the highest current adoption rate at 57%. Adoption is expected to grow to 88% over the next 3-5 years.
Robotics and automation, currently at 38%, is expected to reach 76% in the next 3-5 years. Predictive Analytics, currently at 31%, is expected to grow to 79% in the next 3-5 years. Industrial Internet of Things, currently 27%, is expected to grow to 73% over the next 3-5 years. Artificial Intelligence, currently at 17%, is expected to grow to 62% in the next 3-5 years.
 
Talent Shortage, Customer Demands and Disruption are Top Supply Chain Challenges
When it comes to supply chain challenges, respondents continue to report that their organization’s greatest challenge is hiring and retaining qualified workers at 52%.
Close behind is the category of customer requirements in which customers continually expect and demand faster response times and lower costs. Digital innovation is essential to solving this customer experience challenge, but the technologies cannot be implemented without a skilled workforce to run them. Supply chain disruption was also a major challenge at 39%.
 
“Supply chain resilience has never been more important. Companies that made investments in digital technologies prior to the pandemic were more prepared and able to adapt, survive and even thrive during this disruption. They will also be ready when the next crisis inevitably hits,” John Paxton, CEO of MHI.
 
Strategies to protect supply chains from global disruptions
Previous to the pandemic, companies had already begun making changes in response to the shift to a digital, always on supply chain. Companies recognize that the worldwide reach of supply chain means that they have to think outside of their company and look to partners to improve the organization. COVID-19 accelerated this process and our survey respondents reported the following as top defensive strategies that organizations are currently utilizing or plan to implement: implementing flexible manufacturing or supply chain related services (45%), and building longer-term business relationships with a few suppliers (43%).
 
“When the pandemic hit, consumer preferences went out the window in favor of what they needed urgently, foreshadowing a critical new normal for supply chains. Flexibility to predictable patterns is no longer enough; resiliency to unforeseeable disruption is an existential, business-critical requirement,” Thomas Boykin, Supply Chain Specialist Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
 
Supply Chain Digital Consciousness Index Helps Company’s Embrace Digital Innovation
The report defines a pyramid, introduced last year, of digital adoption that has four technology stages, starting with the collection of data through digital connectivity, and then moving up the pyramid to generate increasing supply chain value and insights from that base data through automation, advanced analytics, and ultimately artificial intelligence.
 
The Supply Chain Digital Consciousness Index (DCI) characterizes a supply chain on four levels of awareness — from dormant to elevated — and across five digital categories.
The categories span all dimensions of supply chains, from leadership, talent development and workplace culture, to technology and innovation adoption to customer experience. 
 
“The pandemic has reset the bar for where companies need to be along their DCI journey – and accelerated the pace at which they must get there. Many organizations don’t yet have the foundation to support their evolution along the digital continuum,” Randy V. Bradley, Associate Professor of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, Haslam College of Business, The University of Tennessee.
 
The report also provides real-world case studies of digital supply chain technologies and recommendations for leaders for developing strategies to implement these innovations.
“Digital supply chains reached a tipping point this past year and are now table stakes for successful operations,” Annette Danek-Akey, EVP Fulfillment at Penguin Random House.
 
The findings in this report are based on survey responses from over 1,000 manufacturing and supply chain industry leaders from a wide range of industries. Eighty-one percent of respondents hold executive-level positions such as CEO, Vice President, General Manager, Department Head or Engineering Management. Participating companies range in size from small to large, with 49% reporting annual sales in excess of $50 million, and 18% reporting $1 billion or more.
 
Download the complete report here.
 
About MHI
MHI is an international trade association that has represented the material handling, logistics and supply chain industry since 1945. MHI members include material handling and logistics equipment and systems manufacturers, integrators, consultants, publishers and third-party logistics providers. MHI offers education, networking and solution sourcing for their members, their customers and the industry as a whole through programming and events. The association sponsors the ProMat and MODEX expos to showcase the products and services of its member companies and to educate manufacturing and supply chain professionals on the productivity solutions provided through material handling and logistics. ProMatDX is being held at promatshow.com from April 12-16.
 
About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 5,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Now celebrating 175 years of service, our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 312,000 people worldwide make an impact that matters at www.deloitte.com.
 
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.
 

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