Last year, many in the supply chain technology industry were warning companies all over the globe to prepare for the unknown. We didn’t know how long COVID-19-related shutdowns, and the ensuing port congestion and crunch on carrier capacity, would last. It now seems that port congestion and capacity issues will persist throughout the year. There is optimism around the corner, but a sunny outlook isn’t enough; it’s past time for supply chain leaders to transform their supply chains to become more agile. The unknown can be frightening and risky unless supply chain processes are properly digitized and resilient.
Some supply chain leaders believe that the key to a resilient supply chain is developing a value chain that is averse to risk. However, this thinking could lead to a potentially higher costs and low customer service. If there is enough preparation for the unknown, there’s no need to be averse to risk. You can embrace challenges and changes knowing that supply chain digitization has made your processes pliant, adaptable to disruptions and, yes, resilient. What does that mean? Your supply chain should benefit from end-to-end supply chain visibility and execution solutions that work together in a coherent supply chain orchestration strategy. True resiliency is achieved when supply chain leaders can predict issues and dynamically respond – from sourcing and manufacturing to final delivery – with agile solutions. With these capabilities, you can predict and react to constant manufacturing and logistics changes with control-tower precision, confronting challenges before they become disruptions.
To cultivate true supply chain resiliency, the concept of end-to-end supply chain visibility should not be limited to freight shipment transparency. Supply chain leaders need to look beyond visibility to freight in motion and partner with technology companies that can provide upstream transparency to sourcing manufacturing. Organizations leveraging a neutral, single source of truth that enables real-time tracking of orders and items throughout the entire manufacturing and shipment process, including solutions that truly orchestrate the end-to-end supply chain process, create their own success. It is possible, today, to find technology providers that offer true supply chain orchestration that emboldens companies instead of leaving them at the mercy of data. These solutions allow them to plan, using variable lead times, cost implications, sustainability implications and intelligent historical data; track, using end-to-end visibility and continuously updated ETAs to ensure orders are traveling on time; and adjust, viewing recommended alternate modes, carriers, service levels and routes to bring shipments back on track. Adding sourcing, quality and supplier management enables supply chain technology providers to create an agile and resilient supply chain for their customers through the entire lifecycle of a product.
With a keen handle on manufacturing processes, companies can complement transportation visibility with manufacturing lead time, yields, quality, ready-to-ship, advanced shipment notice and even the manufacturing CO2 footprint. This enables complete supply chain resiliency because companies can act earlier in the process to prevent disruption and increase customer satisfaction. It’s simply not enough to know that a component is not going to be available or it’s running late. Resiliency is realized when these insights are combines with analytics to create opportunities for near real-time mitigation and recovery. This is where visibility to suppliers and new souring options becomes critical. Companies need visibility not only to the suppliers they are sourcing from today but all of the backup suppliers and all of the places they can possibly source each component in order to keep the flow of goods predicable and efficient.
If resiliency is already in your company’s DNA, stress test your processes. Can your supply chain technology let you know if a supplier will deliver on time given the impacts of a seismic supply chain disruption similar to COVID-19? If not, how will you find alternate suppliers and pivot to different logistics solutions on the fly? Do you know, at a glance, how many component parts were shipped and if they will arrive in time? Finally, are you able to quantify the impact on finished goods if component parts are delayed?
A digitized supply chain can help anticipate disruptions and ultimately optimize operations. Real-time analysis of integrated data spanning customers, partners and suppliers will lead to outcomes that better match supply and demand while containing costs. AI and machine learning can also power optimization to minimize costs, maximize capacity, increase agility and anticipate potential impacts while recommending solutions.
Uniting manufacturing and logistics processes bridges the visibility gap and optimizes what has, up until now, been viewed as separate processes. End-to-end supply chain orchestration like this is what winning organizations will achieve. Those that do not will fall behind. True supply chain orchestration is only achieved when a supply chain technology provider can offer real-time visibility from the start of the manufacturing process to the final delivery in combination with control tower-level logistics execution.
There’s no need to fret over uncertainty if you have the solutions that can help identify supply chain issues before they start and resolve issues that crop up during the manufacturing and freight transportation process. Armed with the right technology tools, companies can face disruption and be prepared to emerge more successful than their competition.
Jerome Roberts is vice president of product marketing at Blume Global. He has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry, driving innovative solutions for both SMB and global enterprise companies across all major industry verticals. He was formerly vice president of marketing at UPS, where he led product innovation, customer technology and supply chain marketing.