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Global Macrotrends That Will Shape Supply Chains of the Future

Professor Thomas Goldsby of Ohio State discusses his study of global macrotrends and how they will impact supply chains of the future.

Global macrotrends are very big forces at work on the planet with the potential to significantly impact its inhabitants, says Goldsby, professor of logistics. Goldsby has studied these macrotrends and their potential impact on supply chains along with Chad Autry, associate professor of supply chain management, and John Bell, assistant professor of supply chain management, both at the University of Tennessee. The three have published a book, Global Macrotrends and Their Impact on Supply Chain Management"”Strategies for Gaining Competitive Advantage.

The three chose to study the impact of these major forces on supply chains because of the rising focus on supply chain risk management and higher levels of accountability to which supply chain professionals are being held, Goldsby says. "Business people and supply chain professionals, in particular, are being held accountable for not only good things that happen, but increasingly for the bad things that disrupt supply. We believe that any effort we can make to anticipate things that are likely to happen, whether within our direct control or not, will be helpful to supply chain professionals."¯

The team chose four macrotrends as the main focus of their research: population growth and migration, the flattening world, climate change and resource scarcity. The first two trends are on the demand side and will have the most supply chain impact, says Goldsby. "The first involves population growth in various parts of the world as well as the tendency of people to move to cities. The second macrotrend was examined by Tom Friedman in his books, The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded,"¯ he says. "This macrotrend is all about the rising middle class and socio-economic leveling, which will have very significant implications for business if companies can leverage the demand opportunities of growing populations and increasingly rising wealth."¯

The second two macrotrends of climate change and resource scarcity are more focused on the supply side, Goldsby says. "Supply chain managers need to think very deeply about these two issues and how decisions they make today can help prepare them for challenges and opportunities in the future."¯

As an example of the potential impacts of these macrotrends, Goldsby points to the big differences between stagnant or even declining populations in most of developed world and other regions where populations are growing in size and becoming more wealthy. "Products that might have been out of reach of a typical consumer in a nation like Ghana suddenly become accessible, which creates big business opportunities for companies that have the courage to go there"¯ he says. "This means that businesses will need to seek out markets they have never before explored and being the first mover into one of these new markets can present tremendous business advantages."¯

Most companies are not paying enough attention as yet to these macrotrends, Goldsby says. "One of the premises of the book is that today's business professional is very fixated on the present day with not enough emphasis on the more distant future. We think there are great opportunities for those that engage in long-range planning and seek to think not only about how to minimize risk but how to embrace the opportunities and upside potential."¯

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Keywords: Supply chain, supply chain management, supply management, international trade, supply chain management scm, global logistics, logistics management, logistics & supply chain, logistics services, supply chain jobs, supply chain solutions, supply chain planning, supply chain risk management

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