What will future supply chains look like?

The first two days of the Ti conference in Singapore dealt with emerging markets, however, the third day, sponsored by BT concerned future trends in the supply chain.

Lively discussions were heard throughout the day as Ti’s CEO, John Manners-Bell, Joel Ray, head of Ti’s Consultancy practice, Ken Lyon, Managing Director of Virtual Partners and Advisory Board Member at Ti and Mark Millar, Managing Partner for M Power Associates, led panel discussions on topics ranging from megacities and the rise of the middle class to the end of globalisation as well as the implications of 3D printing and other technologies for supply chains to catastrophic risk; and lastly new models for supply chains.

“The End of Globalisation?” prompted an animated debate as Joel Ray and his panelists discussed how globalisation has added complexity and costs into supply chains which has resulted in increased risks. Among these risks include rising transportation costs, natural disasters, political instability, long lead times and quality issues.

While much has been written on nearsourcing opportunities in Mexico, little has been written on nearsourcing within Asia-Pacific. As China’s consumer market increases, the need for nearsourcing to support this market will likely rise as well. Among the likely countries that may be affected include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. In fact, Myanmar was mentioned with much enthusiasm throughout the conference as the next “big” outsourcing and manufacturing location.

The topic of 3D printing proved quite popular as Ken Lyon described this technology as analogous to the personal computer in the 1980s. Implications for logistics companies remain unknown but one thing that will likely be affected will be service parts logistics as well as trade flows. There is also the likelihood of new supply chains due to the increase in customisation. Nearsourcing may increase as a result of this technology as well as the growth of multipurpose factories.

The three day event was well received by the 100-plus logistics professionals in attendance. Ti especially thanks Agility and BT for their sponsorships as well as all who attended and participated during the conference.