5 global cold chain predictions for 2018 and beyond

Cold chain management

Over the last few years, we have seen unparalleled levels of change across global supply chains generally, and cold chains are no exception. Business conditions that existed a decade ago are no longer relevant today, while globalization and consumer and patient demand require increasing levels of business agility. Complex regulatory environments, as well as a greater demand for accelerated product entry and distribution, are driving major changes, as businesses seek to adapt within increasingly competitive markets.

While traditional measures — productivity, quality, and service — are still relevant, wider changes occurring in the cold chain, and within the larger ecosystem of manufacture and commerce generally, open up new opportunities, and present new challenges.

Below are five key trends that we predict will drive cold chain transformations, and logistics businesses generally, in 2018 and beyond:

1. Digital transformations in the cold chain will continue to be a top priority

Gone are the days when fragmented supply chain networks are the status quo. To drive agility and resilience, businesses will continue to rely on solutions that connect partners and stakeholders together throughout their ecosystems. Cloud-powered technologies will support these investments, supporting a greater impact in both planning and execution. This reliance will drive security concerns and requirements by customers, which will require supply chain service providers to provide transparency and drive trust as part of their customer service.

2. Businesses will adopt analytics-driven capabilities

Advanced analytics and data-aggregation technologies and platforms will further enhance business operations and logistics to improve the speed of product entry and increase cost efficiency. Access to real-time data and “big” data for forecasting will shift from being a “nice-to-have” to mission-critical, as more information delivered in real-time will ultimately solve more problems than it creates for IT departments.

3. Outsourcing of cold chain logistics will grow

Businesses will increasingly outsource their supply chain logistics — both out of convenience and out of necessity — and partner with service providers who work as an extended wing of their supply chain departments, offering the expertise needed to set up and operate, from procurement, to production control, to manufacturing, quality, warehousing, and logistics. Cold chain as a service will increase efficiency and drive ROI.

4. The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to gain importance for supply chain visibility

As supply chains continue to move towards customer-centric models, having information to better improve customer service is a primary reason why companies are deploying wireless IoT sensor technologies, providing customers with more frequent updates on delivery times and improving speed. However, delivery timeframes will increasingly become another factor driving IoT adoption, due to its ability to provide real-time information and operational visibility to better optimize business efficiency. Security and privacy concerns will continue to be a factor related to IoT usage, and companies offering services related to data aggregation will be required to provide security-related assurances to customers.

5. The blockchain engine will accelerate

While mass adoption is likely still years away, new use cases and protocols will emerge, CIOs and other executive levels will gain excitement, and the momentum will encourage businesses, even within traditional sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, to explore how blockchain applications can benefit them.

With the pace of innovation and demand picking up steam at an exponential rate, technology has become fully embedded in cold chain management and logistics. Innovation will be a key theme in 2018: if companies don’t embrace change now, they could find themselves disrupted out of the market. Cold chain excellence can protect established market leaders from highly innovative competitors, because the art of making and shipping products around the world still entails a level of “old world” processes that will not be going away anytime soon.

With advanced hardware, software, and connectivity becoming accessible and cost effective on a global scale, businesses would be wise to invest in these new concepts so they can build on their innovation DNA and adapt to the changing times ahead.

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