By: Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations, FMI

Boat in waterThe food industry continues to grapple with uncertainty, volatility, and change. As we continue to adapt to the "never normal," it's essential to reflect on the valuable lessons learned and explore the current supply chain landscape. At the 2023 FMI Supply Chain Forum, supply chain professionals engaged in a panel discussion featuring insights from industry CEOs Craig Boyan (H-E-B), Sandy Douglas (UNFI), and Steve Oakland (Treehouse Foods). Key themes such as macro-economic headwinds, shifting consumer behaviors, financial forces, supply chain cost reduction and transparency, investments in technology and AI, and the significance of workforce development highlighted current challenges and opportunities for the industry. Key session takeaways included:

The Broken Crystal Ball and Focusing on Control:

Craig Boyan's insight on the unpredictability of the future serves as a stark reminder that businesses need to adapt to uncertainty. The focus should shift towards what can be controlled, emphasizing adaptability and resilience as key imperatives.

Drivers of Growth and Real Incomes:

Boyan notes the historical importance of real incomes, fiscal stimulus, and low interest rates in driving economic growth. However, the specter of ongoing inflation now presents new economic challenges.

Supply and Demand Dynamics:

The pandemic exposed imbalances in the supply and demand for goods and services, highlighting the critical need for efficient and effective supply chain management.

Economic Concerns for Vulnerable Populations:

The recession affecting low-income and senior populations underscores the importance of inclusive economic recovery efforts.

Supply Chain Costs and Improvements:

Sandy Douglas addresses the rise in supply chain costs and emphasizes the necessity of investments in serving retail customers and suppliers better.

Leveraging Technology and AI:

Steve Oakland highlights the importance of technology adoption, particularly AI, to enhance forecasting capabilities and drive business transformation.

Collaboration and Transparency:

Douglas underscores the critical role of collaboration and transparency in supply chain management, highlighting the potential for cost savings and service improvements.

Diversity of Retail Channels:

As the industry experiences consolidation challenges, Douglas stresses the importance of maintaining diversity in retail channels to adapt to changing consumer behaviors.

Workforce Evolution and Skills:

Workforce challenges are evolving, with lower turnover and increased flexibility in scheduling and pay, highlighting the importance of workforce skills in a rapidly changing job market.

Immigration and Industry Growth:

Boyan and Douglas advocate for comprehensive immigration policies, recognizing the role of immigration in industry growth and future economic prospects.

These insights from industry experts offer a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in today's uncertain world. While the crystal ball may be shattered, adaptability, innovative technology adoption, trading partner collaboration and workforce development will be crucial in guiding organizations through these turbulent times. By focusing on what can be controlled, businesses can not only survive but thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Learn more about the FMI Supply Chain Forum