What Are Your Top 10 Supply Chain Trends?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Crossroads 2013: Supply Chain as Future Enabler conference at MIT, which featured a great lineup of speakers from Flextronics, Pfizer, 7-Eleven, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, and MIT. I don’t have the time or space to summarize every presentation, but overall the conference was very informative and thought-provoking.

The presentation that I enjoyed the most was A Vision of Supply Chain Evolution by Tom Linton, Chief Procurement and Supply Chain Officer at Flextronics, where he presented his top 10 list of supply chain trends. Here’s his list and comments:

#10: Cloud Computing: Low cost and reliable cloud solutions for global supply chains are starting to emerge; “apps” will transform supply chains.

#9: Business Process Convergence: Instead of automating inefficient processes, companies will eliminate them — e.g., replace inter-company business documents such as purchase orders with sense-and-response systems; companies will more seamlessly integrate inter-company functions.

#8: Global Labor Costs Equalize: Labor arbitrage is in decline as labor costs in Mexico match China’s, and India, Ukraine, and Indonesia become more cost competitive.

#7: Raw Material Scarcity is driving innovation in materials, with companies replacing copper with aluminum, gold with copper, and steel with resin in certain cases. Companies will also need to better manage conflict minerals and rare earth metals.

#6: Skill Specialization: New supply chain skills will emerge, such as managing supply chains in the cloud, and undergraduate and MBA programs will become more specialized.

#5: Regional & Local Sourcing will expand and supply ecosystems will emerge as economies grow; “Made in USA” and “locally-sourced” will drive sourcing.

#4: Emergence of Control Towers as supply chains become more virtual (few or no factories). Supply chain winners will have a global footprint and be transparent, reliable, and flexible.

#3: Predictable Unpredictability: Predictability becomes a competitive advantage; supply chains break through barriers to become faster, more cost efficient, and safer.

#2: Corporate Social Responsibility Becomes Fundamental: It won’t be an option any more, policies expand globally, emerging country laws catch up, and foreign corporations will follow global norms.

#1: “Non-Zero” Supply Chains Win: In other words, supply chains focused on greater collaboration between everyone in the ecosystem will win. This will result in end-to-end supply chain solutions that will create new value for customers.

You can watch Tom’s presentation below for additional details.

Do you agree with Tom’s list? What trends would you add to the list? Post a comment and share your top 10 supply chain trends. I’ll share mine in a future posting.


  1. I love your #1 trend Tom! As the lead reacher of Vested Outsourcing for the University of Tennessee I have seen first hand the power of how adopting a Vested business model helps companies create collaborative win-win (Non-Zero) outsourcing solutions. We profile our favorite case studies in the book Vested: How P&G, McDonald’s and Microsoft are Redefining Winning in Business Relationships. I will happily send you a copy of you have not read it. We also profile the huge success of the Dell/GENCO ATC Vested agreement in the book Vested Outsourcing: FIve Rules that will Transform Outsourcing.

    Kate Vitasek
    Faculty, University of Tennessee
    Center for Executive Education

  2. Great stuff again! Thanks!

    I’m especially interested in #6 and #2.

    As a student at the University at Buffalo seeking a degree in Bus. Admin. with a concentration in Supply Chain Management, and a minor in Environmental Studies, with a core focus of Environmental Policy, these two trends are intriguing to me.

    Are you aware of any other specializations that will be taught in MBA programs besides cloud? And, I love the fact the sustainability and corporate responsibility is a major trend!

    Thanks again!
    Kyle Ephraim

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