Benchmarking: Biggest Emerging Industry Challenges

Learn what emerging challenges could significantly impact the contract manufacturing and packaging industry in the near future.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege to facilitate two group discussions at the F4SS Connect meeting in St. Petersburg. The topic for both groups focused on the biggest emerging challenges our industry is currently facing.

The Impact of Technology on Supply Chain Strategies

The first group focused on the impact of technology. All agreed with the huge impact that consumers are having as their buying behavior shifts to buying online more than ever. Amazon has become the first shopping option for many people, especially in the younger generation. This is causing manufacturers and suppliers to make adjustments in their offerings and supply chain strategies.

Consumers are also directly affecting how products are produced – their increasing demand for customization of products has created the need for more flexible manufacturing systems (3D printing comes to mind). Technology was also the basis for the largest concern this group felt in regards to emerging challenges the industry faces. All agreed that data systems within both customer and supplier are not keeping up with available technology and information sharing because of the rate of change and cost to keep up. This has not only prevented customers and suppliers from working together as effectively as they could, it has also prevented processes from being as streamlined and efficient as they could.

Defining Sustainability, Cutting Cost, and Government Regulation

The second group did not emphasize one area such as technology but touched on several areas. One challenge discussed was sustainability. All agreed it is an important area for everyone to engage in but that it is a topic that needs more definition – it can be very impactful with proper motives and strategy but not productive if just implemented to check a box. Another challenge discussed was the emphasis on cost cutting that ripples through the supply chain which will eventually affect innovation if left unchecked. The challenge of increasing and constantly changing government regulation was also discussed (from FSMA in regards to food safety to CTPAT in regards to food security). There are obvious benefits to making improvements in these areas but there are challenges in understanding, compliance, and cost. This group also discussed areas of technology influence including the effects of consumer demand for customization and consumer use of online ordering.

One overall insight was clear. Challenges don’t go away – they evolve. Change most often originates with the consumer and how their demands change. As long as we continue to focus on understanding the needs of the consumer and we work together to deliver solutions to these needs our industry will continue to be successful.

Lauren Wilson