As with most other spheres of society, our supply chains took a massive hit – and are still recovering – from the disruption of the global pandemic. From healthcare facilities and communities desperately waiting for medical and hygiene supplies to backlogged factories scrambling to remedy critical assembly-line components only produced in China, cracks (or, in this case, choke points) started appearing in global supply chains, exposing just how vulnerable and fragile these systems are, especially in the face of a storm.
With record-long lead times, supply and demand issues, widescale shortages of base materials, transportation difficulties, and sick workers to deal with, supply lines across most, if not all, industries were affected. Toilet paper, building materials, cleaning supplies, food items, and chemicals were just some of the few casualties – with microchips and semiconductors (and hence, smartphones, computers, and cars) still suffering.
It’s become increasingly clear that supply chains can make or break global corporations of all sizes – and with uncertainty and business volatility bound to increase, digitalisation and intelligent workflows could be the answer to insecure, vulnerable, and even archaic supply chains.
However, responding in real time to problems and being proactive to market changes can only be achieved if the entire supply chain is visible – something that 84% of chief supply chain officers already grappled with in 2019, according to an IBM C-suite study. This lack of visibility results in environmentally damaging waste and revenue-reducing inefficiencies. Digitising supply chains will not only unlock productivity, agility, and added value for companies, but can also promote overall sustainability, ultimately strengthening their position for growth.
Modern supply chain technologies may not serve as a crystal ball – enabling business and supply chain leaders to foresee what the future holds – but these innovations do empower them to better prepare today for tomorrow’s inevitable unpredictability and change.
Smart supply chains and their many business benefits
According to Gartner research, by 2023, at least 50% of large global corporations will be using artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, edge computing and the internet of things in their supply chain operations. More so, over 30% of warehouse workers will be supplemented, not replaced, by collaborative robots. Technologies like these can help transform traditionally complex, siloed, and obscure supply chains into fully transparent, integrated digital ecosystems that thrive – and allow their businesses to do the same.
Distributed cloud technologies mean that crucial data can be continuously captured and analysed at every step in the value chain journey for improved management, increased responsiveness, and adaptation to change. Digital twin applications enable companies to create what-if scenarios to plan ahead and take resiliency to the next level. Beyond simply managing your supply chain and mitigating risk, digitisation opens opportunities for increased productivity, increased asset reliability, cost savings, new business models, and more value for your customers. Not to mention, a competitive advantage by positioning you as the preferred supplier in your industry.
A roadmap for supply chain digitisation success
Supply chain proactivity starts with identifying and analysing what isn’t working, pinpointing stress points and operational bottlenecks in these systems, and then brainstorming potential digital solutions to resolve the issues. Every chain has its own unique challenges and priorities, and because of their intricate nature, organisations must research and understand common challenges within their operations and possible underlying root causes. Knowing what areas of your supply chain need improvement is a good starting point to define your digital transformation strategy.
Next, you’ll want to determine your digital supply chain vision and the steps you need to take to get there. Invest some time in researching smart supply chain trends, principles, case studies, and revolutionary solutions that can transform your business. Big picture and blue sky thinking is important – consider how various technologies, platforms, and software will competitively position your company over the next few years.
Discuss your detailed plan of action with other C-suite and supply chain executives to champion and drive forward the digital transformation. Your roadmap should have a comprehensive and long-term approach, detailing unified, integrated technology across your operations and further investments that can be made in the future.
Ultimately, developing a visible, integrated, and data-powered supply chain is going to set you apart and will stand you in good stead in a constantly changing, customer-driven world.
- Leon Steyn, CEO at Dante Deo