Supply chain companies to watch in 2021
We take a look at those companies in the supply chain sector who made a splash in the turbulent year that was 2020 – and who will be worth keeping an eye on next year.
Getting more visibility into your supply chain will be a key challenge for 2021.
Unilever turned to Californian company Orbital Insight when they wanted help tracing their supply chain. In particular, palm oil, which has been linked to deforestation and other ills, is in a lot of their products. The multinational needed help tracing the first mile, which is often very complex, to source sustainable palm oil. Orbital Insight uses a mixture of geofencing, satellite, and other data sources to build up a picture of what happens right at the beginning of the chain before supplies even get to the mill. Used by government agencies as well as big corporations, Orbital Insight appointed a new chief executive recently. It will be interesting to see what this innovative company does next.
A recent study found that as much as 3% of the US population are now vegans. That means an inevitable rise in demand for plant-based meat, but that isn't the only reason companies such as Impossible Foods are worth watching. The supplier of plant-based meat to the likes of Burger King is able to produce one million pounds of 'meat' in about 68,000 square feet. In a year where the vulnerabilities of the meat supply chain in the US were exposed when some manufacturers were forced to shut their plants, this is significant. Plant-based products could offer a shorter, more robust supply chain to the real thing. As calls for sustainable alternatives grow, we expect to see Impossible Foods grow as well.
The use of IoT sensors has huge benefits for supply chain managers and postal services. A company like Sigfox, which operates in 72 countries, can make a huge difference to visibility across the whole process. Sigfox's trackable trolleys, which use HERE Positioning, are containers on wheels equipped with IoT sensor devices that feature Sigfox's wireless communication and geolocation service. They can help reduce loss rates, speed up the process, and save money. Previously, trolleys used to transport parcels and mail spent a good deal of time off-radar. Now postal services can get a daily inventory of where they are, making the supply chain a whole lot more transparent. Sigfox is now entering the arena of electric chargers in India. As the uptick in e-commerce due to the pandemic looks set to continue, Sigfox will be an important company for 2021.
Trucks are used to deliver most goods in Africa, but this is not without its challenges.
Supply chain bosses in Africa faced huge challenges when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Trucks deliver most of the goods on the continent, but drivers were not only at risk of being exposed to the virus but exposed to corruption too. An increase in checkpoints meant an increase in the potential for extortion. Kobo 360, a logistics start-up based in Nigeria, saw these challenges as an opportunity for digitization. More recently, the company paired up with The International Finance Corporation to launch a call for innovators to bring climate-smart, temperature-controlled logistics to Nigeria. This will help address food waste challenges and will be critical for transporting medical supplies including vaccines. Their innovative approach puts Kobo 360 firmly on our list for ones to watch in 2021.
There are all sorts of pain points in any supply chain. One which we saw increase during the pandemic was the issue of finding warehouse space. One calculation found that there are four billion square feet of wasted space in the US at any given time, often while goods start piling up with nowhere to go. Enter Spacefill. The French company helps companies with empty warehouse spaces make a profit on them while matching them with those who are looking for storage. It's a neat idea – and Spacefill is an example of the kind of company we expect to see more of in 2021 as efficiency gaps in supply chains are tackled one by one.
The Middle East did not appear to suffer the same stockpiling and shortages issues during the pandemic.
While much of the world was grappling with empty shelves and shortages as the pandemic raged, the Middle East appeared to be an enigmatic exception. A report by the Dubai Future Foundation and Dubai Future Council found that this was down to years of investment, particularly in technology. One company ahead of the game is DP World. A global supply chain leader based in Dubai, DP World decided to roll out a blockchain-powered digital container logistics platform in 2020. It replaced the manual, time-consuming admin tasks which are the cause of inefficiency everywhere. The company recently announced its first common carrier agreement with P&O Ferrymasters, a company it bought in February 2019, to carry goods between India and Europe. Expect big things in 2020.
If supply chains are to be more robust and resilient as we go into 2021, a key issue is going to be real-time tracking. In many cases, supply chains are becoming more fragmented and complex, as smaller companies and start-ups offer outsourced services for part of the journey. But while this might sound like it could make tracing assets more difficult, the right partnerships can be of huge benefit. A partnership between leogistics and HERE Technologies. “We combine our yard knowledge, transportation and management knowledge, and tracking-and-tracing knowledge with the specialized expertise of our partners, like HERE Technologies with its location capabilities, to provide full transparency and comprehensive supply chain solutions for our customers," explained leogistics' CEO Andre Kaeber. The German company helps large enterprises with their supply chain needs. We expect to see more intelligent partnerships of this kind in 2021.
Proactively address disruptions to your supply chain with greater visibility today.
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