The current state of the supply chain in a post-pandemic world is vulnerable. Many businesses were forced into making major upheavals post-2020, – 60% of healthcare businesses alone claim they reorganized their supply chain. Also, it’s no surprise that ports around the world are looking to make cargo movement more sustainable.
Maintaining a steady flow of traffic is about connection and data-sharing. In other words, it’s about building relationships and sharing the right data that allows you to automate your supply chain and make better decisions.
In this article, we’ll be showing you how to build a more resilient and collaborative supply chain – through honesty, technology, and having the right people in place so that traffic flows and your customers are satisfied.
Start with honesty in the chain
Companies like to discuss market-size growth and functionality, but supply chains need direct discussions for individual elements and capabilities.
In essence, your supply chain doesn’t just need a range of professionals who have the necessary skills to manage an end-to-end supply chain – they also need openness and transparency.
Take, for instance, supply chain management software. If the software claims to provide real-time visibility but a partner doesn’t enable the data share, those claims no longer matter.
Indeed, the pandemic has caused a rethink regarding supply chains. Now, there is a shift in focus on things like algorithmic and data literacy as businesses strive to become more collaborative and resilient. But if your supply chain managers aren’t able to maximize SCM software, this shift in focus falls apart.
Companies need an honest look at that value and a plan to respond with outside data sets, the integration they create, and more. When you create a culture of trust, you will attract high-quality partners and suppliers that share your mindset.
Additionally, being open and frank about possible options – as well as sharing data sets and so on – help create a transparent climate that can lead to consistent improvement throughout your entire supply chain.
Building resilience together
The pandemic meant that relationships between shippers and suppliers, among others, altered radically. Margins are no longer as lean, and it’s much better if you all work together.
Indeed, winning a pandemic supply chain is about embracing integration and data sharing so that every point is flexible, responsive, and collaborative. This is key in an epoch where supply chains exist in a more disruptive and volatile environment than in pre-2020.
Pre-pandemic, the argument might have been that adopting new approaches – such as automation – was financially risky. Now, it’s essential to both mitigate risk and to improve financial performance.
So what do you need? Supply chain resilience which can boost your ability to respond to adversity and bounce back. The structure should be a mix of technology, people, and automation.
Smart technology now exists in the supply chain arena as well. Businesses can use both AI and AA to help them make better decisions – and to ensure that many tasks are just a single click away.
Indeed, more and more application vendors are now embedding their applications with AI (artificial intelligence) and AA (advanced analytics) capabilities that process data from your entire supply chain and offer valuable business intelligence that informs you what action to take.
Advanced analytics especially allows businesses to assess data autonomously far beyond the capabilities of “regular” business processes, thus allowing them to learn more about their supply chain.
Take, for example, edge computing. Edge computing takes a section of your supply chain data, removes it from a centralized data center, and places it where it’s closer to the data source, such as a warehouse or even a manufacturing facility.
As the velocity and volume of your data increase, streaming it becomes a harder, thankless, and more inefficient task – unless you adopt advanced technology, such as edge computing. It positions storage and servers at your central data sources, takes a load off, and boosts efficiency and speed.
Supply chain tech will give you a competitive edge, and help you build a more resilient chain while ensuring you outstrip the competition. Technology, though, is moot without the right people working on it.
There are multiple supply chain functions, from supplier management to warehouse management, and from freight coordination to inventory control. The bigger your business is, the more manpower you may need to cover all the bases.
Naturally, all supply chains are unique – it’s important that you find functions that closely align with others. For example, you might find that warehouse management and inventory control can be manned by the same individual.
If, on the other hand, you hire a range of people to control different functions, you need to work together to find functions that flow together so that every team member has access to the same tech and data. This ensures a more seamless supply chain where everything and everyone is moving in the right direction.
Post-pandemic, it’s also important to hire the right smart analysts who are able to understand supply chain issues, freight rates, and market trends. Analysts need to crunch huge swathes of data and perform reviews of warehouse space limitations and stocking program restrictions, among other things.
To help your team analyze the data faster and more efficiently, equip them with the right tools and tech.
Time is of the essence – especially for supply chains, where businesses can harness automation and investment to help them get the most out of the tech in high-level actions.
What does this mean?
AI and alerts – backed by machine learning – can be used to minimize human involvement in decision-making, thus preventing delays (and errors). It reached the point where it can accurately forecast your inventory – among other things – and inform you about stock levels.
Essentially, automation joins the dots needed to get the most out of your technology – so that workflows speed-up, human errors are reduced, and your supply chain becomes more efficient.
Businesses can also invest in tools that track and flag shifts, and compare them to historical trends. In other words, they don’t just flag each time stock needs to be resupplied, they also know how much faster (or slower) a company got to this point – compared with the previous month, quarter, and year.
This is key because you need a tool that helps you forecast, plan and control your inventory. With AI-driven solutions, businesses can analyze demand insights (and correlate them), as well as plan their stocking more accurately.
Eventually, you can automate your entire stocking and fulfillment process, which will save you a heap of time.
The blunt truth is that there is no post-pandemic supply chain – gaps between supply and demand soared during the pandemic, with businesses suffering extreme shocks at both ends. Two years into the pandemic, 16% of worldwide businesses still report disruptions.
For supply chains, the pandemic isn’t merely a short-term disruption. it has longer-lasting, wider implications for logistics operations.
As a result, nothing points to long-term easing right now. AI improvements – no matter how advanced – can’t reverse the trend alone. It’s time to build a supply chain plan of action that reflects your company values – one that is built on honesty, leadership, communication, and openness. To accomplish this, work with your team to create workflows, resilience, and partnerships that foster growth.
About Jake Rheude
Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.