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The Roaring 2020s in Supply Chain Management

Three trends that will challenge supply chains in the coming decade.

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This is an excerpt of the original article. It was written for the November 2021 edition of Supply Chain Management Review. The full article is available to current subscribers.

November 2021

This is the last regular issue of Supply Chain Management Review for 2021. Normally this time of year, I look forward to what’s in front of us. That’s turned out to be a fool’s errand over the last year and a half. So, instead, I looked back to see what I wrote this time last year. My column was titled “COVID hasn’t stopped supply chain progress.”
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As the world fights off the effects of COVID-19, the coming decade will bring its own unique operational challenges. Although I am not a futurist, I believe at least three compelling trends will affect supply chains in the decade of the 2020s. How we deal with them will significantly affect the way of life and standard of living for ourselves and future generations.

These trends are as follows:

  1. the retirement of Baby Boomers;
  2. more and more disruptions; and
  3. the impact of climate change.

Daunting, yes, but these trends are not insurmountable. Let’s look at each in more detail with an eye to how supply chain management can lead the way in the next decade.

Trend #1: The Boomer generation will soon be the Lost generation

The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is now in the middle of retiring from the workforce. The last of this generation will reach full retirement age in 2031. As Boomers age out, they will take their cumulative skills, knowledge and historical perspectives with them, leaving a huge hole in the collective work experiences of organizations. When Joanna leaves procurement, where she has been a category manager for 20 years, who will do her job? In many cases, by the time people realize she is gone, no one will remember how she did her job. What will be missed is the value she added to the department, and while that may not be apparent right away it will eventually be missed. Multiply this across a generation that now numbers 78.7 million, and the loss is incalculable.

The Boomer generation experienced the first truly exponential leap in technological change of any generation. They saw the invention of the integrated circuit, men going to the moon and back, deep space exploration, advances in computing and the growth of the Internet. That just scratches the surface. This gives Boomers the advantage of historical perspective. Allowing for historical perspective, we can understand not only what decisions were made but why those decisions were made. Events happen surrounded by the political, economic, societal customs, practices and cultural norms of their times. The use of historical perspective helps to clarify the issue’s context and normalize it in its time period. Historians call the judgement of events using the cultural norms of today presentism. It is a practice that is avoided by modern historians because it introduces bias and distorts understanding.

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From the November 2021 edition of Supply Chain Management Review.

November 2021

This is the last regular issue of Supply Chain Management Review for 2021. Normally this time of year, I look forward to what’s in front of us. That’s turned out to be a fool’s errand over the last year and a…
Browse this issue archive.
Access your online digital edition.
Download a PDF file of the November 2021 issue.

As the world fights off the effects of COVID-19, the coming decade will bring its own unique operational challenges. Although I am not a futurist, I believe at least three compelling trends will affect supply chains in the decade of the 2020s. How we deal with them will significantly affect the way of life and standard of living for ourselves and future generations.

These trends are as follows:

  1. the retirement of Baby Boomers;
  2. more and more disruptions; and
  3. the impact of climate change.

Daunting, yes, but these trends are not insurmountable. Let’s look at each in more detail with an eye to how supply chain management can lead the way in the next decade.

Trend #1: The Boomer generation will soon be the Lost generation

The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is now in the middle of retiring from the workforce. The last of this generation will reach full retirement age in 2031. As Boomers age out, they will take their cumulative skills, knowledge and historical perspectives with them, leaving a huge hole in the collective work experiences of organizations. When Joanna leaves procurement, where she has been a category manager for 20 years, who will do her job? In many cases, by the time people realize she is gone, no one will remember how she did her job. What will be missed is the value she added to the department, and while that may not be apparent right away it will eventually be missed. Multiply this across a generation that now numbers 78.7 million, and the loss is incalculable.

The Boomer generation experienced the first truly exponential leap in technological change of any generation. They saw the invention of the integrated circuit, men going to the moon and back, deep space exploration, advances in computing and the growth of the Internet. That just scratches the surface. This gives Boomers the advantage of historical perspective. Allowing for historical perspective, we can understand not only what decisions were made but why those decisions were made. Events happen surrounded by the political, economic, societal customs, practices and cultural norms of their times. The use of historical perspective helps to clarify the issue’s context and normalize it in its time period. Historians call the judgement of events using the cultural norms of today presentism. It is a practice that is avoided by modern historians because it introduces bias and distorts understanding.

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