According to supply chain management experts, global trading will continue to be a primary concern for business leaders, as it is expected to impact both supply chain improvement efforts as well as logistics during the 2019 calendar year and beyond.

Of specific concern is the global trade environment, and how tariffs will change over the next few months. The back-and-forth between the United States of America and China regarding tariffs is of paramount concern to many in supply chain management. The political uncertainty related to tariff and trade issues is a subject being closely watched. While some companies are looking to amend or implement customs migration processes, others are sitting back and waiting to see what comes next. Why? Because they believe that taking action too soon would be inherently risky to their supply chain improvement efforts, and in turn their bottom lines.

Another trend of imminent concern to supply chain management leaders is the expected continued shortage of qualified, blue-collar workers in 2019 and beyond. As customers continue to order online and eschew brick-and-mortar store purchases, it has intensified the national need for truck and delivery drivers. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry has been struggling to hire and retain qualified drivers. As of 2016, there was an estimated shortage of more than 36,000 drivers. According to the most recent statistics available from the national organization, that number was expected to far exceed 50,000 by the end of 2017.

While aggressive recruitment and lucrative sign-on bonuses are a short-term solution, while industry leaders are looking into how combining resources and capacity can help in the long term. Unfortunately, truck drivers aren’t the only blue-collar workers in short supply. The sustained spike in online purchasing has also caused a shortage of warehouse workers. Ask your friendly neighborhood supply chain management pro and they will likely lament how the lack of warehouse laborers is negatively impacting the fulfillment side of the supply chain operation.

To give some perspective on the shortage of warehouse laborers, consider this: The Wall Street Journal reports that an additional 450,000 warehouse workers will be needed to fill expected vacancies and meet production demands during the 2019 calendar year.

Many industry insiders are calling this labor need unprecedented. Many hope that upgraded technology and increased automation will help fill the production void left from this shortage of qualified blue collar workers.

Also of concern is the increasing pressure on supply chain management leaders to modernize technology, and when it comes to supply chain improvement, everyone is talking about automation. Supply chain improvement takes adaptability and actionable, scalable solutions – and automation can help business leaders achieve both of these things.