Why You Could Soon Be Playing Supply-Chain Catchup

3 Key Charts: supply chain disruptors, mobile preferences and growing Asian imports

Written by PROFIT Staff

Welcome to 3 Key Charts, a weekly department in which we explain the graphs, maps, tables and diagrams that you must understand to guard and grow your business. The diagrams and graphics displayed below could help you discover a new opportunity, alert you to an impending risk, or teach you how to be a better manager.

In this instalment, we look at the technologies that are set to disrupt supply chains, Canadian mobile preferences, and Asian nations’ growing interest in importing.

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The new supply chain

Where it’s from: “The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report: Supply Chain Innovation—Making the Impossible Possible” by MHI and Deloitte.

What it shows: The technologies that survey respondents believe will have some impact on or disrupt supply chains in the next decade. MHI and Deloitte surveyed 400 supply chain professionals from companies of all sizes and a mix of manufacturing, distribution, service-providing and other firms. Respondents believed inventory and network optimization tools would have the most impact on supply chains, followed by sensors and automatic identification. 3D printing was rated least likely to have an impact or disrupt supply chain.

Why it matters: Which of these technologies your company should be adopting depends on the industry you are in and the nature of your business. But it’s important to evaluate each one thoroughly: 75% of respondents believed at least one of the eight technologies would disrupt their industry and provide a competitive advantage to firms that adopted it. If you’re looking to upgrade your supply chain, consider focusing on invisible process changes rather than big, expensive hardware. Respondents rated inventory and network optimization tools, sensors and automatic identification, and predictive analytics as the most likely to disrupt their industries, and they’re following their own advice: the first two of those technologies have an adoption rate above 40%, compared with just over 10% for driverless vehicles and drones and under 20% for 3D printing. The report cautions against waiting until your hand is forced to adopt new technologies, a strategy that it says will be untenable as “the accelerating pace of technological advancement starts to create insurmountable capability gaps.”

MORE PROCUREMENT STRATEGIES: When to Jump the Supply Chain »

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Mobile choices

Where it’s from:2015 Canada Digital Future in Focus” by comScore.

What it shows: The market share of smartphone operating systems (OS) and manufacturers used by Canadians. Apple devices top the list at 38.3%, but Android is the most popular operating system choice at 50.5%. Homegrown favourite Blackberry is a distant third on the manufacturer’s ranking at 8.9%.

Why it matters: Having a mobile presence is now a requirement for many businesses, particularly consumer-facing companies in retail or services. An app is table stakes these days—companies are now competing to get their loyalty cards into digital wallets like the Google Wallet or Apple Passbook and their content onto messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Snapchat. So knowing which operating system and devices to build for is key to mobile success. The report suggests the biggest opportunity is still Android customers, though Apple has a significantly better market share within Canada than globally (38.3% versus 11.7%). RosterBot CEO  Ian Bell predicts 2015 will finally be the year when multi-platform web-based app development will allow companies to build for multiple platforms with little difficulty, minimizing the cost of creating one-off products for each OS. But such development has yet to become commonplace, so for now you’re still going to have to pick which platforms you want to be on.

MORE DIGITAL WALLETS: The Huge Opportunity of Mobile Payments »

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Emerging market opportunities

Where it’s from: “Raising Our Game Across the Pacific: The Changing Nature of Canada’s Trade with Asia” by the Conference Board of Canada.

What it shows: The value of goods and services imported by 12 Asian countries with which Canada trades (the A-12) in 1993, 2003 and 2013. The graph includes mature economies like Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, BRIC members China and India, and new emerging economies Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the collective of Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

Why it matters: Many business understandably make one of Canada’s traditional trading partners their first port of call when exporting. But those countries have seen relatively little growth in the value of goods and services they import over the last decade—Japan’s total is almost unchanged, while South Korea and Hong Kong have seen modest increases. Emerging markets are largely responsible for the doubling of the A-12’s importing figures, with BRIC powers China and India leading the growth and smaller markets like Singapore and Thailand also showing considerable increases. However, while these Asian markets’ appetite for imports has grown, Canadian businesses have largely failed to profit. Canada’s share of the A-12 markets has halved from 2% in 1993 to under 1% in 2013 according to the report. That’s because as the A-12 becomes more integrated into the global economy, companies lose first-mover advantage and face increased competition. For businesses considering exporting, the answer may lie in focusing on some of the less popular markets towards the top end of the graph.

MORE EXPORT ADVICE: 5 New Global Realities You Need to Understand »

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What conclusions do you draw from these charts? Let us know using the comments section below.

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