Craig Fuller, CEO at FreightWaves

We are witnessing the remaking of the world order in front of our eyes — and this will impact global supply chains in unforeseen ways. 

We are about to experience the most dramatic and unpredictable supply chain map we’ve experienced since World War II.

If the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s international ramifications keep spreading, we face a real possibility of a bifurcating global economy, in which geopolitical alliances, energy and food flows, currency systems, and trade lanes could split.

During the first Cold War, the world was anything but flat. There were two worlds — the East and the West. That world is being recreated as we speak, and with it, Western companies will start to shift sourcing away from the East and more toward Western and neutral states. North American economic integration will become a new priority. Surface transportation across the Eurasian continent will become more complex, and possibly contested.

Entire supply chains will be rewritten, with new sources and partners — all in the interest of corporate and national security. This will create massive volatility and unpredictability.

Companies will prioritize vendors that can provide consistent and dependable supplies, likely paying a premium. In the end, those costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

While prices will become an important consideration for consumers, brands that offer a consistently and predictably available set of choices will enjoy pricing power. 

The future market winners will be the corporations that make the investments in supply chain infrastructure and reliable, Western-friendly production locations. 

Supply chain analyst roles will become the hottest jobs of the next decade, prized by corporations, consulting and even Wall Street for the ability to interpret, analyze and predict disruptions and risks in a new world order. Those same analysts will find themselves recruited heavily by national security, intelligence and defense organizations — as future conflicts will largely rise out of a desire to control materials and production. 

New investments in supply chain technologies and automation will be accelerated, as will preference for near-shoring and domestic sourcing.

Historical data models, based on following freight market trends, will become less relevant in the future. Companies with dynamic supply chains will require fresh data and forecasting that is constantly updated as new information and datasets become available.

The Ukraine crisis is perhaps the end of the preamble to a long history of geopolitical, economic and military conflict between the East and West in the second Cold War. Now the plot is thickening. State actors like Russia and China are choosing regional hegemony over global integration — we will see this play out further in the Baltics and the South China Sea, not to mention the Middle East and the greater Pacific.

World Trade Organization-led globalization took decades but accelerated when China entered in 2000. Global decoupling — if it comes to that —and tighter regional socioeconomic integration will also take decades, and the pace of change will vary, sometimes fast and sometimes imperceptibly.