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Thanks to the constantly changing nature of retail, commerce, and product distribution, the supply chain has become an ever-evolving organism as of late.

With the frequent shifts in customer needs, new methods of generating sales, and the always-quickening pace of delivery, supply chains will always find themselves needing to change with the times in order to keep up.

These changes aren’t always as simple as “faster shipping” or “new delivery methods”, however. Supply chains will always need to respond to trends and changing customer needs as retail evolves, and these changes will always reflect the current times and state of the market.

If you want to know what to expect out of your supply chain for the near future, or if you just want to know what the supply chains of today look like, here’s a few common supply chain trends we’ve seen in 2019:


More Complex Warehouses

In the current retail climate, warehouses have to serve several different functions through the supply chain, from distribution center to returns processing and everything in-between. To that end, warehouses have begun to grow more complicated and sophisticated in nearly every regard. Warehouse management software is more robust than ever before in order to manage the broad range of demands placed upon warehouse operators, zone planning has become more purposeful and direct to better manage traffic and item demand, and even the planning and sorting of warehouse shelving and pallet racks has become a more complicated process than ever before. As shipping methods and ordering practices grow and change, warehouses across the country will need to keep up.


Relocated Distribution Centers

Blame Amazon, blame the rise of mobile ecommerce, blame whoever you want, but the truth of the matter is that customers are expecting their items faster now than ever before. To help meet the increased demand for overnight shipping, 2-day delivery, and other expedited delivery options, distribution centers have begun relocating to be closer to where the customers are. Many supply chains now employ a larger number of smaller distribution centers along their supply chain, each of them offering a smaller and more focused inventory selection. These distribution centers allow products to get to the end consumer more quickly and reduce the possibility of errors along the chain, especially when faster shipping options are needed.


Rise of the Sharing Economy

In a similar vein, many more warehouses are getting in on the ‘sharing economy’ to accommodate faster shipping times and reduce storage needs. On-demand warehousing and on-demand logistics are an increasingly important part of the supply chain, as larger warehouses rent out their unused space to other distribution partners to store items along the way. Warehouses all over the country have already been experiencing the benefits of either renting out their unneeded storage space, or partnering with another warehouse to help store and maintain their inventory offsite.


Direct Delivery Options

As ecommerce continues to grow and evolve, customers are faced with greater options for shipment and delivery than ever before. Businesses have begun to offer more same-day delivery services, pick-up-in-store options, and expedited shipment options than ever before, and these changes mean that businesses need a supply chain that can keep up. By shortening the drive distance and removing the amount of stops that a product has to make along the way, retail can more quickly adapt to direct delivery and offer a more convenient buying experience for their customers than ever before. Many supply chains will continue to see the effect of direct delivery for years to come, particularly supply chains that serve big box stores or direct retailers.

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