The 2023 NextGen Supply Chain Conference highlighted the swift and profound changes moving through the supply chain and operations industry, marking a unique opportunity to enact system-wide transformations on a scale not often seen. For those who couldn’t attend, we aim to share key insights from the engaging discussions and firsthand experiences in Chicago.

The conference underscored a critical reality: for supply chain and operations leaders, rapid adaptation and agility are not just beneficial—they are imperative. At Argon & Co, we see this proactive adaptability as crucial for sustaining profitable operations. We stand ready to navigate you through the industry’s swift evolution with strategies that will not only enhance your supply chain but also make it a key driver of your business’s success.

In the following content, we will present our take on two pivotal insights from the conference, each intended to provoke thought about your organization’s position in the shift towards advanced supply chain and operations networks.

Reshoring, Nearshoring, and Friendshoring – The Race Is On

The “Reshoring, Nearshoring, and Friendshoring” session underscored a critical directive for businesses: adopting a “China + many” strategy is now imperative to maintain a competitive edge in the face of global instability. The traditional reliance on China alone is fraught with growing risks, including rising labor costs, tariff threats, and stricter U.S. enforcement of social compliance. Indeed, the increased enforcement of the UFLPA, signed into law by President Joe Biden in late 2021, has led to a surge in U.S. customs seizures of Chinese imports.

As China becomes less competitive, industry leaders are diversifying their manufacturing operations, expanding into Asia and regions with favorable trade relations such as Vietnam, India, and the increasingly competitive landscape of Central Mexico. The potential here is expansive, offering avenues for growth, innovation, and long-term partnerships that can bolster resilience and drive competitive advantage in a rapidly changing global economy.

Argon & Co’s deep understanding of China’s regional differences is a crucial asset in developing targeted strategies for our clients. Because we have a robust “on-the-ground” presence in China, we’re able to provide our clients with genuine insights into the complex labor practices and contractual nuances that must be navigated when reducing an operational footprint in China. This granular intelligence is essential for creating bespoke strategies that guide our clients through a thoughtful transition from Chinese manufacturing dependence to a more diversified, globally integrated supply chain approach — all while prioritizing operational resilience and profitability. The pivotal question is – where are you positioned in this race to break-up with China?

Supporting the Automated Supply Chain

The NextGen Supply Chain Conference reaffirmed our existing observations: automation’s profound impact on warehouse operations is undeniable, and it brings with it several often-overlooked secondary effects. As warehouses modernize through automation, the need for a fundamental overhaul of legacy maintenance frameworks and organizational structures becomes evident. Traditional maintenance schedules are being replaced by AI-driven predictive analytics, enabling real-time monitoring and preemptive servicing. Organizational structures must adapt to support a workforce that collaborates extensively with intelligent systems, necessitating a shift from manual oversight to strategic management of automated operations.

Training and organizational development must evolve in tandem. Teams need to be skilled not only in the technical aspects of operating automated systems but also in interpreting data outputs and making decisions in a technology-driven context. It’s about fostering a culture where continuous learning and adaptability are at the forefront, ensuring that human capital grows alongside technological investments.

From deploying advanced analytics for maintenance optimization to restructuring training programs and procurement policies, we deliver a comprehensive organizational model that aligns with the sophisticated demands of an automated warehouse environment. Our strategies are designed to integrate with your operations, providing second-order productivity that reduces SG&A expense, the missing complement that automation initiatives often overlook.

A Partnership Awaiting Realization

The NextGen Supply Chain Conference was a rich source of fresh ideas, practical solutions, and forward-thinking strategies. But that’s just the beginning. With our localized expertise and eager associates, we’re here to further the dialogue. Let’s work together to turn these insights into actionable strategies, ensuring your organization doesn’t just adapt, but thrives in this dynamic and rapidly changing landscape. Whether you’re in the initial stages of transformation or seeking to refine ongoing processes, our team is poised to help — and we’ll do it with you, not to you.

Kyle Warneke

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