As December 31, 2020 fast approaches, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we might as well start calling the “new normal” plain-old no-modifier “normal,” because what we used to call normal is over. While that reality sets in, we turn towards 2021 with hope of redemption, some way to calm the effects of the first year of this decade. 

We’ve seen a record-breaking number of named storms this season at a whopping 30, six of which were major hurricanes. We’ve seen the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, the overburdened hospitals and overtaxed supply chains which led to no respirators and no toilet paper and a lot of desperate people. We’ve seen riots abound. And politics? Let’s not even start down that path. 

But we’ve also seen the advent of not one, but multiple vaccinations show results in fighting Covid-19, the product of researchers around the globe sharing for the greater good. We’ve seen suppliers and manufacturers rise to the occasion to protect humanity at its most vulnerable. More than any other year in recent decades, we’ve seen the innovation and sheer force of will that keep people going, growing, changing, and making progress no matter the obstacles in the way. You can see it with online schooling, work from home, distilleries turned sanitizer manufacturers, and widespread curbside pickup. As easy as it is to lose track of, as a species, we are teaming up to fight the pandemic and to support one another, as best we can from a safe social distance (six feet apart, we’re told.) 

So what do all these changes mean for supply chain and manufacturing? This segment of the economy has not escaped unscathed, and 2021 is likely to bring even more profound changes as complex ideas come to fruition in the face of a chaotic world. Here’s what you can expect: 

All eyes on supply chain, our unsuspecting heroes

Supply chain professionals tend to fly under the radar, invisibly managing the gears that keep humanity buzzing along. But when people can’t get the equipment they need to survive or maintain their basic quality of life (things like toilet paper, Lysol, hand soap, N-95 masks, and respirators, to name a few) then those who have never given a second thought to where and from whom all these sorts of items come, they start to scrutinize the why’s. 

During Covid, this has meant monitoring suppliers for ethical dilemmas such as price gouging or dangerous working conditions. Throughout 2021, expect consumers and businesses alike to offer deep scrutiny to supply chain practices as old world ways break down entirely in our now-digital economy (with our overburdened postal service.)  

Suppliers who come up with innovative solutions and respect the health of their employees will see increased loyalty and applause while people are paying more attention than ever. As is natural, bad apples will float to the top—perhaps only faster now in the mid-pandemic world. 

Expect more recognition, too, as consumers begin to see and value the role of various players in their supply chains.

A much colder supply chain

As vaccines are introduced to patients around the globe, somebody has to transport these ultra-sensitive products. Current Covid vaccines require a maintained temperature of  -70 degrees Celsius ©, or -94 Fahrenheit. With so many people at risk, and each patient requiring two doses for the vaccine to be effective, we can expect a rise in focus on transportation refrigeration technology that can sustain such low temperatures. In the same vein, a need for transparency and verifiable track records that show chain of custody, temperature consistency, etc. (probably via some IoT device paired with blockchain tech) will drive innovations among supply chain startups.

Susan Beardslee, Freight Transportation, and Logistics Principal Analyst at ABI Research has described the efforts needed to effectively supply the Covid-19 vaccines as “Herculean” and requiring “efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval.”

Continued volatility and increased automation

No one in supply chain, logistics, or manufacturing has been spared of the uncertainty and volatility caused by the coronavirus. Driver shortages and overburdened warehouses paired with a teetering economy make for delicate and unprecedented balance to be struck in order to stay afloat and stay relevant. Many in the supply chain realm are turning to machine learning in order to help predict what might come next and how to proceed. Some manufacturers consider lights-out factories that are fully automated—essentially, someone pops in to turn the lights out, and the robots handle the rest. 

Businesses will need to remain flexible in order to adapt to what 2021 has to offer without breaking under the weight of the chaos. 

The disappearance of smaller companies

Of course, not everyone will succeed, even if they stay flexible and do everything “right.” Covid-19 has already brought businesses to their knees across a wide range of industries. An unfortunate truth is that smaller companies often can’t face the pressure or constantly changing variables that come with a crisis-minded market.

At least in the US, government funding for small business can sometimes be finicky to navigate, and there’s no guarantee of continued support for small businesses. 

Nearshoring and Regionalization

Expect supply chain companies to look to nearshoring and regionalization to help manage logistics and cost. Companies will more frequently turn to neighboring countries for products that may have once been bought overseas. This allows for redundancy, cost savings, and strengthening and revitalization of local economies for an easier recovery from 2020’s effects. 

Some aspects of 2021 are just going to be a matter of wait and see, especially as rapidly as the world is changing in response to the pandemic. No matter the specs you need from a supplier, 

Premikati Marketplace has you covered. If you’re looking for professional services to help give you a competitive edge in today’s strange market, Premikati can help by managing your business processes using our team of experts. Reach out to us today to see how we can help your business flourish in 2021. 

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