The logistics industry, including the healthcare sector, is undergoing one of the most diverse and far-reaching modifications and adjustments in its history.
No longer is a supply chain domestic, but global. Consumers expect to find the resources they need within moments of searching for it either online or locally. They demand transparency and the highest quality.
In 2018, it’s quite possible that every sector of the industry will see some flexing and change, both for good and in more challenging ways, to better reach these and other consumer demands.
Consumers Are the Driving Force for 2018
Prior to outlining some of the major trends, consider what is driving them.
The logistics industry is seeing a rebound in various sectors, including the healthcare supply industry. Much of this is driven by the consumer’s need for faster access and better quality.
However, it is not just about improving customer experience. In addition, there’s more of a move towards digitalization to improve efficiency, which ultimately drives customer satisfaction.
Better inventory management means less capital caught up in assets. Innovative solutions in areas such as artificial intelligence and e-commerce driven sales will also enhance customer engagement and experience.
So, how is this happening? What is likely to occur? Take a closer look at some of the largest trends and predictions for supply chain management for 2018.
A Focus on Cloud-Based Infrastructure
The move to the cloud isn’t something new, but it will become more of a must for companies in the healthcare supply chain.
Every component of the supply chain will be better from moving data to the cloud, including suppliers, retailers, manufacturers, and end service providers. There’s a huge amount of data and numerous tasks that can be streamlined and better accessed when cloud-based infrastructure is present.
The cloud-based infrastructure presents several key benefits, including the ability to provide better after-sales management and location-independent access to information. Most important for many businesses will be the reduction in costs that occur as a result of having to have a physical presence in every area.
Data and Analytics Will Improve Forecasting and Improve Performance
A key hotspot in the healthcare industry is forecasting product availability and accessibility.
However, improved analytics will improve the performance of the supply chain in this area. Being able to reliably predict need will drive better transparency across the supply chain. One key reason for this is the linking of clinical and supply chain data.
There is an increasing number of companies within the logistics industry putting more effort into forecasting to reduce costs but also to ensure product supply is where it needs to be without having to oversupply to achieve this goal.
A key reason for this is that some forms of distribution, including trucking and last-mile delivery, remain highly competitive with growing costs. Even standard mail service is becoming more expensive due to high demand from consumers for faster delivery and reduced access to labor.
Better forecasting can reduce at least some of this frustration and cost while improving the overall performance of the supplier.
Agile, Connected Supply Chains Will Be Far More Flexible
The connected after-sales supply chain is moving towards Industry 4.0 and with that will come the ability to have far more flexibility and movement.
Again, the end goal here is to provide better access to the consumer. Consider how Industry 4.0 will transform this sector of the supply chain.
By linking every aspect of the production and logistics process, there is improved communication throughout. Suddenly, people, machines, logistics systems, and product management link together. And, when properly organized, this creates a fantastic end result.
Now, a self-organizing supply chain is possible. A decade ago, it took months to develop a supply chain from manufacturer to end user in the healthcare industry with dozens of regulations and “stops” along the way. However, Industry 4.0’s connectivity and linking will make it possible to have a self-organizing supply chain that modifies as flow changes.
This links to the growing use of Internet of Things and big data analysis. Supply chains can transform all of this data and information – at a very fast pace – and turn it into improved product movement.
It’s flexible production and shorter times to produce and ship items. It also means that there’s more insight into modification options.
Next-Shoring Is Growing in Importance
Next-shoring, the process of bringing production of products closer to home is becoming more important for manufacturers.
This will lead to complex changes in supply chains, of course. Off-shoring production of product was often done because many countries offered significantly lower wages.
But, wages are improving in many areas, making this less of a cost savings. More so, re-shoring is an option, but limitations are present here, especially in that it remains costly to move product production into developed consumer-focused areas.
Next-shoring changes this. It allows for diverse and adaptable sites that are focused on innovation and automation. It allows for manufacturers to place production where it is needed, drastically reducing costs for logistics and product movement.
Artificial Intelligence Will Become More Relevant and Available
For many companies in every sector of the supply chain, artificial intelligence seems to be the cutting edge solution to improving operations.
There’s a significant shortage of workers and demand for faster, even custom-made products are becoming more evident. This is where AI fills the gap.
Machine vision and robotics in warehouses, production facilities, and every other component of the supply chain will reduce labor costs and speed accuracy and transparency. Imagine facial recognition allowing for careful compliance management of medical products and tracking the movement of any single item from start to finish.
Each one of these innovations and modifications to supply chain management will facilitate the need to work with a trusted, experienced company who can implement software tools to achieve these goals.
Yet, whether a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or a large, big-name pharmaceutical company, these supply chain innovations will improve consumer’s, enhance bottom lines, speed production, and minimize risk in every sector of the healthcare supply chain.