Today’s business world increasingly takes place in a global environment whose consumers’ needs are constantly changing — driven by the rise of emerging economies like Brazil, China and India, among others. Staying relevant in such an environment requires being able to read trends that can make or break a business, depending on how its management seeks to capitalize on them.
Emergence of Robotics
Once viewed as the domain of science fiction writers, robotics is playing a bigger role for companies looking to boost productivity, yet remain competitive globally. Examples include nations like China, which has embraced robots as a way to control its spiraling wages, an analysis by the Bank of New York Mellon suggests. The International Federation of Robotics estimated robot sales of 225,000 units in 2014, or 27 percent better than 2013, the bank’s report indicates. The auto industry remains the top robotics user, with further growth anticipated in the education, healthcare and leisure fields.
New Supply Chain Management Models
The vulnerability of production lines to disasters has prompted many businesses to rethink traditional concepts of supply chain management — which focused on tight inventories and limiting production at a handful of facilities, suggests a Deloitte University Press report on key trends of 2014. Toyota rethought its approach after a major earthquake in Japan — where most of its parts facilities were located — led to a 29.9 percent global decrease in production, the report states. Toyota responded by spreading its production over more facilities, and re-engineering many of its vehicle components to allow the use of more common parts.
Growing population diversity requires businesses to rethink previous assumptions of customer bases and how to reach them. Companies that learn this lesson are better able to capitalize on the spending habits of demographic groups that formerly seemed off limits, asserts business consultant Avi Dan in a Forbes magazine article, “11 Marketing Trends to Watch For in 2015.”
Virtual Workforce Expansion
Technologies like email, instant messaging and video conferencing make it possible to interact across different time zones without sharing the same work space, as previous generations of workers did. For example, roughly 20 to 30 million people in the United States now work at least one day a week at home, states a PI Worldwide report posted by the International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Companies, in turn, can increasingly vary schedules and priorities to suit their own production needs.