by Courtney Llewellyn

Whether it’s computer chips or clay pots, the supply chain for a wide variety of goods – and even services – continues to see massive upheaval. Amidst demand issues, there is also a transformation of the digital ecosystem occurring. Advances in technology, shifts in consumer behavior and the “Amazon effect” have all majorly altered logistics of supply, changing the way people buy, sell and transport products. According to Dave Malenfant, the green industry faces unique challenges when it comes to shipping and logistics and understanding the factors that impact supply now is essential to keeping up with the demands of the future.

Director of Outreach & Partnerships in the Center for Supply Chain Innovation at the Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business in Fort Worth, Malenfant presented “Future Trends in Logistics: Partnering For Success” at this year’s virtual Nursery Guide Live. He discussed the trends he’s observed over his 30-year career, predicted the future of supply chain management and provided insight as to how you can prepare your business for the challenges ahead.

“Change before you have to.” That was the simple piece of advice Malenfant began with. For those who aren’t sure where to start, though, he broke change down into three phases: Developmental (improving the current state over time and gradually), Transitional (requiring management of the change process from the current state to a future one) and Transformational (making fundamental changes to your strategy or operations, shifting behaviors and mindsets, implementing organizational changes and digitizing your business).

“Some of you may be stuck in Phase 1, but you have to be transformational, especially with digitization,” Malenfant stated.

The aforementioned “Amazon effect,” with consumers wanting everything immediately, has highlighted how most businesses in the green industry are lagging behind in digitization and automation of the supply chain, including logistics, cybersecurity concerns and the biggest issue – how to speed up the supply chain.

Why is digital transformation a must? Because Millennials and Gen Z are the consumers you should be going after, according to Malenfant. “They have more buying power than we give them credit for,” he said. “Boomers are important, but shift your view.”

That shifting view includes embracing newer technologies. They enable processes to work. Malenfant predicted one-third of all companies will be disrupted by digitally enabled competition having better supply chain capabilities and artificial intelligence.

In addition, he listed some key global trends that will impact the green industry. He noted that continued double digit growth in e-commerce is impacting freight decision making; the complexity of markets and servicing all channels is driving for more integrated services; and the purchasers’ desire for fresh, undamaged and sustainable goods, be they tomatoes or tools.

Top Challenges Being Faced

If at all possible, one change that needs to be made is drastically shortening product cycles, as there is immediate pressure to get products to customers ASAP. Another is hiring new employees or developing existing ones with new skills. They need to be creative as well as strategic in their thinking.

Another looming challenge is offering customized services. Using predictive analytics – available through myriad software options – will help you determine your customer requirements. Malenfant said that customer segmentation and customization is growing exponentially, so take advantage of that information.

But a challenge arises from that as well: processing the enormous amounts of information that you can gather. “There is a need for more automated solutions and applications,” he said. “Doing it all manually is becoming too tedious.”

Even if the current horticulture and green industry boom slows, consumers will continue to buy things. You need to be ready to meet their demands. Today’s consumers expect speed but also focus on the social, environmental and sustainable aspects of what they’re spending their money on. And quality and compliance are always absolutes.

“Analytics is the basis of all this,” Malenfant concluded. “Use data to better predict what happens next. You must identify where to innovate and invest in new processes and technology.”