chapter  Chapter 10
30 Pages

Advanced supply chain concepts

Technology and sustainability
ByDavid Gardiner, Hendrik Reefke

New approaches and technologies hold the potential to transform our current ways of operating supply chains. Regardless of the future success of a single technology, these advanced concepts continue to transform operations and entire supply chains. This offers opportunities for businesses, but it also presents multiple challenges in terms of, for example, social acceptance, sustainability, and investment requirements.

The opening perspective presents some thoughts and insights on the warehouse of the future. This chapter introduces the reader to several new developments across the field of supply chain management. It presents a selection of topics and discusses key concepts.

Fully autonomous or driverless vehicles are the next major step in the evolution of transport and, whilst still a vision for the future in many areas of public life and logistics, they hold significant promise to revolutionise transportation.

The continuing growth of e-commerce continues to push robotics and automation into many supply chain operations. Generally, online retailers cannot pick and ship individual products in large quantities but rather private purchasers determine the quantities.

Supply chain management understands the concept of forward distribution (from retailer to customer). However, it is the reverse distribution or returns management, which is attracting attention from retailers as they strive for customer satisfaction. Omnichannel retailing presents new challenges for product returns management. Consumers have multiple ways in which to initiate product returns; the process is no longer a linear phenomenon.

Sustainability has become a guiding principle for many businesses and influences operational decisions accordingly. However, in addition to internal operations, the overall supply chain needs consideration since, in many cases, most environmental and social impacts occur across the multiple tiers of suppliers. Hence, most companies must consider a strategic as well as operational transformation in support of their sustainability agenda.