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Supply Chain 6 min read

2023 in review: this year's biggest turning points in supply chain

Supply Chain Port Shipping Container

Supply chain is taking some big steps toward more resilience this year, but can it keep up with the challenges?

The supply chain industry has witnessed both significant developments and major challenges in 2023. From disruptions caused by natural disasters to the integration of advanced technologies, events in the industry this year pushed companies to rethink how to manage their supply chains in the future.

To better understand the events that shaped the supply chain industry and what innovations emerged from them, we are highlighting four of the biggest news stories from the sector this year.

A container ship travels through the Panama Canal.

Panama problems

Probably the biggest news that rocked the sector since the Suez Canal blockade in 2021 was the historic drought and rising sea temperatures that significantly impacted shipping through the Panama Canal this summer. The incident led to disruptions and increased shipping prices, as CNBC reports, with slowdowns in shipping routes from Asia to Europe.

To alleviate congestion caused by a backlog of ships waiting to transit without reservations, Reuters reported that the Panama Canal implemented temporary measures that aimed to manage the bottleneck and maintain smooth operations during the drought that affected the region's water supplies.

Another article from Reuters shows how the situation had a big impact on global trade, especially on supply chains that heavily rely on the transcontinental route. The resulting delays also had significant cost implications for businesses and consumers, with the addition of potential increases in transportation costs.

This highlights the potential long-term consequences of climate change on this vital trade route and emphasizes the need for businesses to be prepared for possible disruptions in the future.

Find out how location technology can support supply chain resilience by using digital tools to identify disruptions and inefficiencies.

A warehouse worker lifts a box onto a shelf in a fulfilment center.

Enhancing efficiency

Despite the improvement in mitigating supply chain disruptions, headwinds remain. Reuters writes that regardless of some cost reductions in the supply chain, challenges for many businesses are still present. A recent survey shows that supply chain disruptions have dropped by over 50%. And yet, factors such as labor shortages, transportation bottlenecks and inventory management issues continue to impact supply chains.

The US is no exception. Reuters revealed that material shortages, difficulties in hiring and a scarcity of machine parts are the biggest obstacles the industry faced in 2023. The tight labor market also resulted in increased costs for businesses. To combat these challenges, companies are implementing cost-cutting measures and striving to enhance efficiency within their supply chains.

These persistent hurdles are pushing businesses to make supply chain resilience strategies and innovative solutions a priority.

To better understand the significance of resilience and digitalization in supply chains, we took a detailed look into initiatives and strategic partnerships that aim to improve visibility and collaboration within the sector.


Adopting AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has played a crucial role in transforming supply chain management. Organizations have started leveraging AI to optimize various aspects of their supply chains, including demand forecasting, inventory management and route optimization.

By harnessing the power of AI and analyzing vast amounts of trade data, companies can gain valuable insights to streamline their supply chain operations and improve overall efficiency. The integration of AI technology also has the potential to revolutionize supply chains, making them more agile and responsive to changing market demands.

Forbes points out why businesses must proactively address supply chain challenges to maintain stability and competitive advantage. It discusses what makes the role of AI tools crucial for procurement and supply chain organizations by optimizing operations, improving decision-making and enhancing resilience.

A Bloomberg article also explores how the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) tools with trade data has the potential to transform global supply chain management. Tools like ChatGPT can simplify the analysis of trade data by enabling the detection of patterns and facilitating language translation, ultimately making trade processes more efficient.

If you are curious about the potential of AI in supply chain management, we are outlining six ways in which AI can drive growth and improvement in this crucial aspect of the supply chain.

Yojee event

Robots rising

Apart from AI, another innovation that has emerged as a game changer in ensuring workplace safety and improving productivity in warehouses is robotics. By automating repetitive tasks and handling hazardous materials, robots can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for workers. They can also enhance operational efficiency by improving order-picking accuracy and reducing fulfillment times.

Forbes introduced the idea of robotics improving the management of perishable items by providing precise temperature and humidity control while minimizing damage. The article acknowledges potential implications such as job displacement, high costs and security concerns, but emphasizes the long-term advantages of automation.

With advancements in robotics technology, warehouses can create safer working environments and optimize their processes for better productivity and customer satisfaction.

To give you deeper insights into the future of robotics in logistics, we are outlining the potential automation has for improving the safety and productivity inside warehouse units.

It's been a big year for the supply chain industry. And as the industry continues to evolve, we are excited to see how organizations adapt to the changes and disruptions they experienced this year. If you are curious to find out which strategies and technologies will enhance resilience, efficiency and sustainability in supply chain operations in 2024, stay tuned.

Maja Stefanovic

Maja Stefanovic

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