Big data and 3D printing set to reform supply chains in 2014

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The rise of 'big data' to the mainstream and emergence of 3D printing will be two of the big issues affecting supply chains leaders in 2014, says end-to-end supply chain consultancy, Crimson & Co.

As 2013 comes to a close and organisations begin looking ahead to next year, the issues being faced by supply chain leaders are continuing to increase in complexity and become more challenging.

Whilst the continuing growth of online retailing this year shaped some recovery in the sector, open discussions are being held around the real cost of 'low-cost' emerging markets such as China and India. "When considering the increasing manufacturing costs, quality challenges, shipping and stock coverage issues, how sensible is it really to put all manufacturing eggs in one Far Eastern basket?" commented Richard Powell, Managing Director and co-founder of Crimson & Co.

"This year saw little advancement in supply chain techniques but developments are beginning around not new, but maturing issues. The term 'big data' became widespread, but most supply chains are yet to really understand what they need to do about this. Looking forward, there needs to be more thought about the use of data, and supply chain leaders will have to work out how to incorporate it in their plans if they want a competitive operation," said Powell.

Supply chain analytics are on the horizon, as well as a shift in the balance of power of supply chain thinking. Even when looking at dedicated manufacturing companies, there is a move from an obsession with factories towards a clear view of the end-to-end supply chain. Powell adds: "This united view gradually being adopted, which cuts across companies, will heavily influence change as organisations realise the potential for streamlining processes and building them as one.

"Alongside this, advances in technology will continue to be a driving force across all industries. Although additive manufacturing ("3D printing") is not yet a mainstream issue, it's certainly something that cannot be ignored. It is remorsefully advancing and will wholly transform the supply chain universe when it 'hits'.

"As organisations continue to overestimate changes over the next three years and underestimate changes over the next ten years, it will be those who recognise these emerging trends and incorporate them at the earliest possible stage who soar."

Powell concluded, "2013 was not a particularly progressive year for supply chains but next year will be, and it will exciting to see how processes develop with the increased significance around 'big data' and 3D printing."

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