Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Opinion on Future of Supply Chain
Where are manufacturing and supply chain networks heading as we move further into the 21st century? From my experience, I’ve witnessed it outsourced as technology improved in the 1990s and 2000s. But as labor costs become more competitive, international shipping risks increase, and robotics take off, I could see if coming back to the United States over the next few decades. Domestically, we will always be quick with innovation. This will drive supply chain networks and will allow for goods to be made efficiently – domestically.
We already have numerous companies that join buyers and sellers online. We’ve also had traditional non-profit organizations that pulled together small business and diversity suppliers. Over the last couple of years we’ve had more and more 3rd party B2B companies serve the supply chain to make it easy to get your business started. Where I think this is turning, from a manufacturing standpoint, is with cheaper labor and robotics. We have companies that are simple assembly operations; could those be taken over by robots that will put together electronics and plastic goods? Auto manufacturers have moved final assembly of cars domestically by robots to get the ‘Made in the USA’ stamp. To be fair, I think its ‘Assembled in the USA’ is the correct way to word it. The assemblers have already invested in the capital for their operations and can keep the plant running 24 hours a day with the assistance of robots. Even the robots that made the robots put each other together. I don’t think robots will ever have independent thought, but they can easily do simply tasks like put together a TV or laptop with parts from overseas.
All of the buildings that have been recently built or updated are much more energy efficient than what we remember in Pittsburgh 30+ years ago. They are now Green Certified, LEED Certified, and do not have smoke stacks from a coal furnace. They will last longer and are more adaptable for simple manufacturing or assembly systems. Conveyor belts are now fully adjustable for custom applications and can be optimized based on the client’s needs.
What I am getting at is that if you are a domestic company that created a simple product that needs to be manufactured, assembled, boxed, and shipped – your supply chain is already in place for the product to take off. There are countless companies out there eager to optimize their shop setup for customers. Even if it is not a good that you hold, say it’s an app or piece of software, there are many services available online to work with international coders that will help you. Even if you offer a service at a competitive rate, I feel that if you work hard enough someone will give you a shot at working with them if the price is right for the quality of the service.
I think it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur for a good, service, or a software/app. I only wish I was innovative enough to think of something. Once I do, I feel the supply chain is in place to partner with many B2B companies to get the product to market. Maybe my niche moving forward is sticking with consulting to join buyers and sellers together?