This special issue includes five of the best papers presented at the 20th ipsera conference. This conference was organized by maastricht university and took place in maastricht, the netherlands. The conference theme was: ‘vision 20/20: preparing today for tomorrow's challenges’. In this editorial we discuss the future challenges in purchasing and supply management and how one can prepare for these today. We make use of the concept of weak signals to detect a number of emerging future trends. All abstracts of the 110 conference papers were analysed using text mining and tag clouds. Also we introduce the five papers that were selected by the conference reviewers and track chairs as the best papers of the conference.