Our most successful clients always ask “What’s next?” as they want to stay ahead of the curve.  It is quite clear that staying on top of current trends and what is expected down-the-road is essential to successfully navigating your business to scalable, profitable growth. For example, if you think your industry might develop a new way of servicing customers, you cannot figure this out after you are left in the dust.  Clearly, providing an exceptional customer experience is important but so is developing this new service method in a scalable, profitable way.  It will be much harder if behind the 8 ball.  Are you thinking about what is next?  

With our definition of the supply chain from creation to customer, there are countless topics to be thinking about when it comes to what’s next:

  1. New products and services: What new products and services will your customers want?  We have found that most customers (just like most of our clients) might not know yet.  You better be thinking about it and prompting ideas!  
  2. Suppliers: What new materials, components and supplies will you need to improve performance at a lower cost? (These win-win successes require innovation and collaboration.)
  3. Transportation: What’s next in transportation?  Think of the relevance – from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to distributors, from distributors to end customers, from one facility to another facility, and so on.  
  4. Technology:  What’s next in technology as it connects each of these people along with equipment, and much more (think IoT) with data and information flows.  We find that this often-times can be the bottleneck to achieving scalability.  
  5. Manufacturing:  What’s next in manufacturing?  Even if you aren’t thinking about using 3D printing, you should be considering the impacts if your competition, your suppliers, your customers and more start using this additive manufacturing capability.  It is likely to impact every step of the supply chain.  What else is likely to happen in your industry?  
  6. Distribution:  What’s next in distribution?  In your industry, what is essential?  To think about distribution, you must think about your customers’ needs.  You also should be thinking about the rest of your supply chain.  For example, if 3D printing takes off, it changes the distribution model.  If e-commerce continues to be important, your entire setup would change if you are more traditional currently.  Do customers want you to take over worrying about what to stock and where to stock it?  Perhaps you should suggest taking on VMI/ replenishment.
  7. Customers: What’s next with your customers?  How about your customers’ customers?  Are you even talking with your customers’ customers?  Do you understand the industry trends throughout your chain?  If you aren’t getting out of your office with an internal focus, you won’t.  Who have you called lately?  Who have you visited?  Do you ask questions?  Attend conferences?  
  8. People:  What’s next with your colleagues and partners?   Nothing else will be achievable if you don’t have the best people on the team.  It wasn’t that long ago we thought virtual meetings were a big deal.  Now they occur daily; however, millennials often-times like coming into the office for the community – and prefer the Google-like environment.  

Thinking about what’s next can distinguish you from your competition.  Eventually, a decision will arise that requires this knowledge.  If thinking of the future is part of your daily culture, you’ll pass by the rest!