All_activities_2-blueSupply chain management can be a difficult area. Coordinating the various pieces of a greater effort means supply chain managers need to have great communication, strong attention to detail, and the ability to think on their feet. Even with all of these characteristics, a supply chain manager can still fail in his role.


Supply Chain Disruptions. External variables have made supply chains much easier to manage but have also disrupted the traditional processes that many organizations manage. Disruptions come in the form of a societal shift in values, new technologies, new regulation, and more. Here are just a few examples of supply chain disruptions that will shake up established processes.

3D Printers

Devices like 3-D printers are changing the way supply chains function at their most basic level—eliminating traditional manufacturing methods has cut down on production time significantly—in some cases, as much as eight weeks have been eliminated from previous methods. The implications of a reduced production period are more significant than they first appear. Not only does faster production mean that orders can be fulfilled more often (and be more customized), it also eliminates much of the cost associated with producing at an external facility and shipping goods somewhere else. Expect 3D printing to cause serious disruptions to global production in the near future. Some academics even believe that it will cause a monumental power shift in the global economy.


Although government regulation has limited the capabilities of what drones can do in certain business models, drones will still play a major role in supply chains of the future. Staying within the guidelines of the FAA, drones can still perform many of the functions that are traditionally done manually. For the curious, those guidelines include:

  • Drones must be less than 55 lbs in weight
  • Can only fly during the day in good weather
  • Must not fly close to airports
  • Cannot fly faster than 100mph
  • Must be within visible site of the operator

How exactly can these drones fit into current supply chain models? Imagine being able to order from your phone, regardless of your location, and have a drone deliver an item to you. Freeing consumers from a permanent address is something we will see happen within the next decade, and to facilitate this, distributors will need to build micro-warehouses around the country, stocked with popular goods. Additional uses for drones could include asset monitoring as described in this article by ZDNet.

More Accurate Analytics

Analytical software is getting better and better at learning from user decisions, and is helping business owners and supply chain managers make more educated decisions about how and when to perform certain actions. Certain production facilities are already using advanced analytics to quickly and accurately review raw material quality, determine what incentives to offer employees, and predicting how much waste will be created in a single phase of production. The possibilities are endless when it comes to analytics—it is quite literally breaking down every aspect of a supply chain into a science. Micromanaging may no longer be a task for supply chain managers, who will delegate smaller decisions to a trusted software, and handle larger issues such as communication between phases of the supply chain on their own.

How do you Prepare?

The only true way to prepare for supply chain disruptions is to be aware of what technology is being developed that is relevant to your industry. Staying up to date on the newest supply chain practices, technology, and ideas is essential to preserving the competitive advantage that many supply chain managers have worked long and hard to establish. For further information on supply chain innovation and management, feel free to download our complimentary Best Practices Guide below.