The Signal December 23, 2021

The Year of Supply Chain

In a year when the world continued to be topsy turvy, the answer to most questions has become . . . “supply chain.” Let’s celebrate.

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What a ride. 

Here we thought 2020 was a showcase, blow-out year for supply chain. Then came 2021. 

What used to be the supply chain organizational measure of “no news is good news” has been replaced by literal news headlines splashing around new ways that supply chain is ruining everything. Well, at least we took some heat off millennials.  

Instead of wallowing, dear supply chain colleague, let's relish in this spotlight and the ability to be the answer to nearly any question posed on the Jeopardy gameboard.

JAN: Who can save the world?

World Economic Forum opens the year with the challenge: 8 supply chains make up over half of all emissions, and supply chain is the key to emissions reductions. Think it'll add cost? Think again. WEF calls supply chain “game changers.” How right they are!

FEB: What's top of Biden's agenda?

Making quick work of his new time in office, President Biden ordered a review of America's supply chain, the reliance on others for critical items like chips and other industries. In spite of the resulting report, he later throws shade at the press room for failure to explain supply chain properly.

MAR: What impacts finance?

Impacts of supply chain congestion around the world impacts the financial world, and folks get a few basics on the sheer size of supply chain through a guide to our financing rules. In an attempt to have this all make sense, the beer game is explained in the financial times.

Oh, and the world discovered where, exactly, the Suez Canal is. 

APR: Who impacts social justice?

Supply chain takes a seat at the social justice table as the US solar industry takes a hard look at forced labor in supply chains. The increased visibility into pharma supply chains increases the bar for ESG performance. WEF shares five demands that employees want in their social contract, citing a seven year high in violations of workers' fundamental rights. 

MAY: What's the target of bad guys on the internet?

April showers bring May... cyberattacks?

Both the US and UK governments focus in on cyber security as cyberattacks increase, including shutting down a US pipeline. NIST jumps in to help and realizes that supply chain is big and taking stock of current guidance before issuing new ones is important.

JUN: What's on fire?

Ok you got me here. The answer to EVERY month of 2021 is, of course... supply chain. But the real answer for June is... the planet. June was hot, record hot

JUL: What's flooded?

  • Supply chains, with orders. 
  • Germany, with extreme flooding, thanks to human activity on the planet.
  • China, with digital currency that US researchers race to evaluate. 
  • Digital manufacturing, with government funding to establish research centers. 
  • Supply chain professionals, with emotions.

AUG: Who's getting a makeover? 

Container ships are a hot commodity that companies like Walmart and Amazon are bringing into their asset coffers. Bringing functions back in house is in vogue as Ford and GM both begin structural changes to their supply chains, looking at vertical integration.

Throwback to the 90s really is happening.

SEP: Who had Christmas?

You did, hopefully. News outlets advised to start holiday shopping in September due to supply chain crunches. Did people listen? Nope, but Kraft does start paying customers to avoid cream cheese.

OCT: Who gets funded?

Funding from Credit Suisse and the US government highlight the need for supply chain funding. Supply chain infrastructure gets a boost in an attempt to help congestion. It's a start, but a far cry from the $100 Trillion needed for supply chain to become net zero by 2050.

NOV: What's so funny? 

For perhaps the first time ever, supply chain took a central starring role in memes around the world.

DEC: Who loves inventory?

Inventory isn't bad, it's just misunderstood. Using inventory well so we can properly handle what comes at us is a good way to end the year, and perhaps spending a few moments in deep thought about alternative supply chain models.

Looking ahead...

As we close the year, don't let your friends and family and the news and social media and the guy at the supermarket get you down. We are a profession of problem solvers and optimists with a healthy dose of looking around the corner. 

Here's a toast to you, supply chain pro, for the tireless work and miraculous ideas that “magically” get implemented in budget, on time, and in scope. 

Let's go into 2022 proud of what we do, and ready to tell the world about it.

Critical Reading

Booming U.S. Economy Ripples World-Wide

Commentary: Despite a year of disruptions, major U.S. ports are processing almost one-fifth more container volume this year than in 2019 to account for surging American demand. Global supply chains are struggling to keep up.
#consumers #demand 

The 3 Most Impactful Circularity Trends in 2021

Commentary: After decades of “blah, blah, blah,” the time to act on climate change is now. Moving into 2022, it is essential that companies hop on board the circular supply chain train and strategize on how they can be a part of this critical movement.  
#circulareconomy #sustainability

How the Supply Chain Crisis Unfolded

Commentary: Congested ports, pricey Christmas trees, ships stuck at sea... as 2021 comes to a close, we've truly heard it all. But how exactly, did we get here in this first place?