Inmar Inc. | January 22, 2013

Supply Chain Management Review has released Five Supply Chain Trends That Shaped 2012, and at Inmar, this list was particularly interesting because these industry trends have aligned with our offerings and our focus. As we drill down, we have broken out the trends affecting our industry into four categories: political, economic, technological and social.

The political arena is ever changing and requires constant monitoring to understand new legislation that often leads to increased regulatory enforcement. This has been a particular issue for retailers who have seen state requirements increase and fines for mishandling of product skyrocket. However, not only retailers are affected, the requirements for transportation of hazardous wastes from the DOT and EPA as well as landfill restrictions have placed restrictions on many points in the supply chain. With the regulations associated with the Food Modernization Safety Act (FMSA) becoming implemented over time, the responsibilities required for the safety of product pre- and post-consumer require a strong knowledge base and more casual attention from supply chain executives.

While political precautions can lead to extra costs, economic factors on the supply chain extend beyond fines and regulations. Fuel costs have increased and do not seem to be substantially subsiding. Transportation collaboration can help deflect these costs — container space can be shared even by competitors to decrease costs.

Technological advances and cloud computing have made visibility and possibilities in the supply chain endless. Data can be collected to the SKU level and used for multiple analytical purposes — inventory optimization, planning and business intelligence can benefit from this data analysis and can be shared openly between trading partners to collaborate for a more productive, waste-free supply chain.

Increased sustainability is a factor that affects the social aspect of the supply chain. Companies are using sustainability and "green" initiatives in marketing and public relations to relate to consumer desires and awareness about the environment. Consumers are also changing how and what they buy with a new mentality to save money and use the vast amounts of information available before making a purchase. Private labels are also increasing as consumers look for cost savings.

In 2013, the trends show more collaboration and more opportunities to improve supply chains. Let's see how the year unfolds.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the trends you feel are impacting our industry. Please leave your comments below.