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Shipper priorities are on maintaining consistency and longevity as their supply chains grow ever more complex, with on-time, in-full deliveries top of the list.

Geodis’s 2017 Worldwide Supply Chain Survey, which collected feedback from 623 supply chain executives across 17 countries, also shows 70% of respondents assessing their supply chains as “very” or “extremely” complex.

Geodis CEO Marie-Christine Lombard told The Loadstar: “We asked what the supply chain trends were, and what was critical in optimising the supply chain. It is quite clear the supply chains of our customers are getting very complicated – especially with things like multi-channel distribution.

“It’s not just last-mile. The customer wants an end-to-end approach to the flows.”

While respondents were keen to outline the challenges, more than half (57%) felt their supply chains gave them a competitive advantage. But, in what will come as no surprise to forwarders, cost containment was the single largest constraint cited, with global competition coming a close second.

Some 66% of businesses dedicate between 5% and 15% of their turnover to the supply chain.

Geodis’s survey, last conducted in 2015, also reveals the continuing evolution towards data-driven services, with all top five technology priorities related to data management: data analysis; internet of things; cloud computing; information security; and predictive analytics.

Similarly, ‘improving visibility’ leapt from sixth in 2015 to third this year in the objectives rankings, with only ‘ensuring on-time in-full deliveries’ and ‘improving product availability or delivery’, seen as more important.

Despite this, only 6% of respondents said they had full visibility, while 15% said their visibility was restricted to production and manufacturing processes.

When asked at which level they’d prioritise improving visibility – suppliers/inbound, production or clients/outbound – 41% said visibility on inbound shipments ranked top, with outbound receiving just 22% of the vote.

Respondents also underlined ongoing skills shortages in transport, with 84% outsourcing these services and 48% using multiple suppliers; 65% also outsourced warehouse operations.

The report suggests the findings highlight the challenges faced by supply chain companies in attracting, and retaining, a skilled workforce.

However, skills shortages did not rank among the five biggest challenges facing the sector: maintaining a consistent supply chain; improving quality and compliance; improving flexibility; creating cost savings; and dealing with innovation and technological disruption all ranking higher.

The executive summary notes: “Companies with agility and innovative approaches appear to be more profitable in this very volatile environment. The strategic and tactical imperatives highlight a need for specific operational expertise, that in some cases could be filled by outsourcing.

“Overall, companies know where the pain points are and the objectives they wish to attain, but the ways to move forward are still many and long.”

You can download the survey here, but you will need to fill out a form.

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