How The Supply Chain Has Evolved Over 100 Years


A lot can happen in just a day, week, month, and year. What about a hundred years? Within that time frame, the world can completely change multiple times. And it has, thanks largely to technology. Technology has transformed every industry, family, and organization. The supply chain industry has experienced these changes more than others. Once we moved from buying bread at the local baker to importing goods from across the ocean, the supply chain needed innovation. Although this trillion-dollar industry seemingly has a flat tire these days, supply chains used to move (relatively) fast. Let’s take a look at some of its past models.

How the Supply Chain Evolved

The Beginning of Optimization

The supply chain saw its first real innovation in 1911 when Frederick Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management. Here, Taylor laid out his views on industrial engineering. His emphasis on economic efficiency and labor optimization modernized manual loading processes. Taylor’s way of thinking expanded during World War II in the 1940’s. Manufacturing military supplies transporting them to troops at speed was critical. War time operations research and industrial engineering led to supply chain engineering. There are still improvements to be made, but this is where the modern production chain got its start.

Mechanization Over ManPower

In the 1940’s and ‘50s, the name of the game was mechanization. Pallets and pallet lifts took away issues of labor intensity when it came to handling materials. Next was organization. Distributors learned how to optimize every inch of space in warehouses while also decluttering. The “unit load” came with pallets. This uniform unit of measurement helped tremendously as the supply chain started to use multiple modes of transportation (trucks, trains, and ships) for one shipment.

Speedy Deliveries

Out with the old and in with the new. Or, out with the rails and in with the trucks. The ‘60s prioritized time-sensitive deliveries so trucks took center stage. The National Council of Physical Distribution Management, established in the ‘60s, worked to streamline warehousing, material handling, and freight transportation. The supply chain operated under the mindset of continuous improvement as researchers worked to perfect every step of the chain.


The ‘60s and ‘70s saw the birth of business computers (IBM!). This innovation drastically changed the way records were kept and managed. Computers also gave the supply chain industry opportunities to grow and reimagine itself. Randomized warehouse storage, truck routing, and optimization of inventory all became possible due to new computer software. The road ahead had never seemed more open.

Pop Music and Logistics

We may remember the ‘80s as a time ruled by Cyndi Lauper, MJ, and Prince but the supply chain remembers the ‘80s as a time of logistics. Computer software allowed greater planning within the production chain. It became easier to protect companies’ bottom lines if they took advantage of new spreadsheets, route planning, and map-based interfaces. As logistics gained attention, the National Council of Physical Distribution Management changed into the Council of Logistics Management (CLM). It was the ‘80s! Who doesn’t love a new stage name?

Introducing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

It may be shocking but it has been over thirty years since the supply chain experienced its last transformative change. ERPs hit the scene in the ‘90s and at the time it was revolutionary (for a five-minute history lesson on ERPs, click here). Teams across one company were all given access to the same data simultaneously. This new “single source of truth” brought collaboration and cohesiveness to businesses. But then what? Sure, the incorporation of cloud software in the 2010’s helped some. But many businesses still operate on aging on-premise hardware. The supply chain didn’t just hit a roadblock. It broke down in need of a new engine.

A Future With Recurrency

The Recurrency team built the necessary new engine. It’s time to go from hardware to software. Recurrency is an intelligence layer for your ERP that maximizes profitability, optimizes workflows, and protects customer loyalty. This highly automated platform is designed to be integrated with most legacy ERPs in less than 48 hours. At-a-glance data analysis, lightning fast search results, and intelligent business recommendations for your sales and purchasing agents all work to help your business hit the road with the pedal to the metal. Whether it’s purchasing, sales, or operations, give Recurrency the wheel and then watch what happens to your business.

Book a demo today to experience your new business engine. It’s been 100 years in the making.