In the aftermath of COVID-induced challenges, global industries are confronting a fresh wave of disruptions, particularly in shipping routes affected by geopolitical conflicts. Executives face new challenges as deliberate attempts to block the flow of goods unfold. Large-scale redirection in shipping is impacting dozens of countries in Europe, North America and Asia, as Houthi fighters engage with cargo ships both in and near the Red Sea. In this rapidly changing landscape, supply chain industry leaders must explore innovative pathways to avoid unnecessary delays and drive the supply chain forward.
Embracing Reshoring and Nearshoring Momentum
To mitigate international shipping chaos, businesses can strategically lean on nearshoring and reshoring, a trend gaining momentum since the pandemic. In 2024, we anticipate a further surge in companies sourcing materials and goods closer to home markets to mitigate risks associated with international shipping. This approach allows companies to reduce significant risks like long lead times, tariffs, and exposure to geopolitical tensions, providing greater flexibility, visibility, and control in shipping and distribution. This can help drive operational and procurement productivity for businesses. Prioritizing localized production capacity is crucial for U.S. manufacturers, reducing dependence on distant partners like China and Vietnam.
Diminishing China’s Dominance
China’s historical manufacturing dominance fueled by its growing workforce is undergoing a shift in the 2020s. China’s aging and declining population challenges American auto and tech companies’ reliance on its cheap labor force and efficient supply chain movement. Coupled with disruptions in the Middle East, China’s role as a manufacturing partner may diminish in the coming years if demographic challenges persist.
AI-driven Advances in MRO
U.S. companies can shift to nearshoring without depending on Far East partners by integrating AI technology into maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) networks. Traditionally, MRO inventory management, procurement and risk has been under-managed compared to other production-related supply chain functions, but today, it is revolutionized with AI and purpose-built technologies. Predictive analytics and machine learning enable top companies to optimize MRO networks, predict service needs, match parts supply with demand, and ensure timely deliveries across regions. With 2024 in full swing, technology-driven MRO optimization becomes a key factor for companies moving towards nearshoring.
Startups and Collaboration in Legacy Industries
Collaboration between legacy industries and tech startups is exemplified in the construction sector. Initiatives like CEMEX Ventures Leaplab are connecting established industry experts with startups, focusing on challenges in green construction, construction supply chains, productivity enhancement, and the future of construction. Such collaborations showcase how innovation can thrive, particularly in the U.S., Central, and South America.
Leveraging AI technology to transform MRO operations enables significant economic and operational efficiencies and improved equipment reliability. Purpose-built MRO platforms provide end-to-end visibility and coordinated workflows, enhancing supply chain resilience. As geopolitical disruptions intensify, the race to survival and success hinges on manufacturers’ adept use of technology. A strategic vision encompassing MRO optimization is vital for achieving resilient supply chains and gaining a competitive advantage.
Founder & CEO of Verusen