Not predictive

digital climb

At the beginning of every year, it rains predictions by economists, analysts and consultants. What will inflation do this year? And how will the global economy develop? The experts all like to make predictions to give readers and listeners some certainty and direction, especially in these uncertain times.

Port economist Bart Kuipers, affiliated with Erasmus University Rotterdam, predicts that things don’t look good for the European economy, as Rotterdam’s throughput of containers, ore and coal has dropped significantly for the second year in a row. He calls Rotterdam’s transshipment figures a direct indicator of the global economy: the ‘canary in the coal mine’.

Personally, I think this indicator has become less predictive. European companies are starting to produce more in Europe, closer to their markets, for reasons of agility and sustainability. And the decline in transshipments of ore and coal is clearly linked with sustainability and with the problems of the German car industry, which is losing ground to Tesla and Chinese producers like BYD in Europe.

Predictable predictions

Other commonly cited supply chain trends and predictions for 2024 are so predictable that it seems as if they were generated by ChatGPT: shortage of skilled labour, increasing sustainability legislation, focus on building resilience, importance of transparency and collaboration, need for cybersecurity, dismantling of ERP, regionalization, robotization and, of course, digitization.

Analyst firm Gartner makes the latter trend more concrete by predicting that half of all companies will adopt generative AI for the supply chain in 2024, in particular for generating additional software code, creating KPI dashboards and utilizing internal chatbots.

Incidentally, in 2021 Gartner predicted that half of global manufacturing companies would have invested in real-time transport visibility platforms by 2023. Despite the interest in these solutions, this prediction certainly did not materialize.


The question is, what is the value of these largely obligatory predictions? Strategically, it is more important to think about the consequences if, for example, Donald Trump is re-elected as US president later this year. What will this mean for the war in Ukraine, the European arms industry and the overall economy? And what if this prediction does not come true? In short: expect nothing, but be mentally prepared for anything.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media