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Why COVID-19 is a Galvanizing Moment for Eliminating Physical and Digital Supply Chain Risk

risk

Why COVID-19 is a Galvanizing Moment for Eliminating Physical and Digital Supply Chain Risk

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the resulting economic fallout was felt across borders and industry alike. From manufacturing to financial services, every industry has been scrambling to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the bottom line. For many businesses, this has helped serve as an urgent wake-up call to take proactive steps to identify and eliminate risk across their global supply chains, which typically span several tiers of suppliers dispersed across the world. Real-time supply chain risk visibility plays a critical role in avoiding business disruptions.

The Economic Risk

There is an immense economic risk that needs to be considered when a business operates a global supply chain. At the start of the pandemic, we witnessed the inevitable ripple effects across not just multiple industries but also across multiple different tiers of suppliers. For example, 3.74% of sub-tier suppliers in the Department of Defense’s ecosystem closed as a result of the pandemic. 75% of small businesses have reported that they have only enough cash in hand for 2 months or less. As suppliers struggle or go out of business, significant supply chain disruptions are common.

This instability coupled with the multitude of other economic crises facing the world, such as ongoing trade friction with China, could precipitate a fundamental collapse of global business as we know it. We must monitor our supply chains for more points of exposure to risks than ever before.

The Data Security Risk

With computer hacking having increased 330% since the start of the pandemic, global businesses also need to account for the cybersecurity risks involved with having a supply chain across multiple countries and potentially hundreds or thousands of suppliers. The data systems of global suppliers are a potential entry point to a brand’s or government agency’s data systems, presenting a major challenge across the global supply chain. Organizations must be able to assess and continuously monitor the strength of supplier data security measures and the changing cybersecurity-related risk associated with their suppliers.

Even after the pandemic subsides, the need for real-time risk monitoring in the extended digital supply chain will persist, especially as cybersecurity attacks grow in sophistication.

New Technology for Physical and Digital Supply Chain Risk Management

When it comes to monitoring risk associated with multiple tiers of suppliers, the majority of businesses are still way behind. According to Gartner, only 27% of companies perform ongoing third-party monitoring and only 2% directly monitor their 4th and 5th party suppliers. Although companies know they’re vulnerable to disruption by a sub-tier supplier, not enough are being directed or given the tools to actively monitor them effectively.

Historically, the majority of businesses attempt to identify, assess and manage supply chain risk manually and only periodically. This is because, previously, automation technology focused on making sense of large amounts of extended supply chain ecosystem data has not been up to the task. Much has changed. The global machine learning market was valued at just $1.58B in 2017 and is now expected to reach $20.83B in 2024, growing at a CAGR of 44.06%. New AI and machine learning-based technology is emerging rapidly and changing the game. This new technology can immediately illuminate risks across all tiers of a global supply chain because data on tens of millions of suppliers is continuously monitored from both a physical and digital supply chain perspective and across numerous risk factors.

Incorporating AI-powered solutions into your supply chain risk management strategy can automate the identification of risks that exist deep within a supply chain. In addition, adopting this technology ensures that an organization has continuous, real-time information to inform ongoing risk management efforts and identify problems before they threaten the business.

There is no way to know when the pandemic and its resulting implications will cease. Or when and where the next global event will happen. Looking ahead, successful businesses will be ready to continue functioning in a safe and secure way regardless of what issues they face. Supply chain-related blind spots and resulting disruptions can pose major complications for organizations that aren’t able to effectively identify and map risk. COVID-19 has driven a greater sense of urgency to shore up these problems. New technology for automated, continuous monitoring of supply chains end-to-end presents a new path toward operational resilience, business continuity, and overall health.

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Jennifer Bisceglie is the CEO of Interos, the first and only business relationship intelligence platform to protect enterprise ecosystems from financial, operations, governance, geographic, and cyber risk in every tier of enterprise supply chains, continuously.

dangerous goods

Automation Trends and Challenges in Transporting Dangerous Goods

In just about every moving part of shipping logistics in the modern trading landscape, automation in some form or capacity is present or in the works to better support operations. From robotics to drones to autonomous vehicles, technology innovation is changing the way logistics operates, one bleep at a time. But when it comes to the transport of dangerous goods, there are factors present that create more of a danger when paired with innovation, creating more of a need for risk mitigation measures. The safety and compliance efforts going into transporting goods (particularly if they are dangerous goods) should always be just as important as the level of efficiency of the transportation process.

Drones, for example, continue making news headlines in logistics-focused transportation. Not only do drones provide an emissions-free, congestion-free and cost-effective alternative, but they also provide a new method of competitive positioning, according to Navigant Research. Pharmaceuticals have successfully been delivered utilizing this method of transportation in the last year. UPS is among the big names reinventing the way healthcare logistics is approached after the company announced its new drone logistics partnership with AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical distributor.

“Delivery bots, RDVs and drones are set to displace millions of truck and van deliveries over the next decade, as they are far smaller, more flexible, lower in cost, and naturally suitable for automation and electrification,” says Ryan Citron, senior research analyst at Navigant Research, in a release earlier this year. “These technologies are expected to make last-mile logistics (LML) more efficient and sustainable, while also transforming local commerce and user experience through new business models such as on-demand store-hailing.”

While this is great news for some of the goods transported on a daily basis, drones are not exactly a realistic solution for the case of dangerous goods, at least for the time being in transportation and innovation regulation. That is when the conversation of autonomous vehicles comes in.

When transporting dangerous goods on wheels, what role does the autonomous vehicle fulfill? Let us start with what could go wrong with transporting dangerous goods. In an interesting evaluation of this process, Occupational Health and Safety released an in-depth article outlining the potential risks associated with ground transportation of dangerous goods. These risks included collisions and accidents, emergency response measures, loading and unloading, and the measures taken to properly secure such materials after loading for the ride. In all of these examples given by OHS, a physical driver is needed in some form or capacity, and not just any driver, but a trained hazmat employee. Without the properly trained employees or advances in technology to ensure compliance is met, a physical employee will need to be present for the majority of the “autonomous” vehicle experience, even if that employee isn’t the one doing the driving.

Another important thing to remember when merging technology and the transport of dangerous goods is their compatibility with other important–and vital–parts of the process. In a recent blog from Labelmaster, the concept of a solid data foundation is explained as a key part of a three-pillar system. The company’s VP of Software & Customer Success, Mario Sagastume, reiterates that when one of these pillars is off, the others follow suit.

Technology innovation does not always equal fancy robotics or massive automation takeovers. In some cases, it boils down to a clear set of data that provides a clear view of the big picture while identifying bottlenecks, risks and a lack of resources. It is important to consider the basics of technology before diving into complex solutions. After all, dangerous goods shipping is already a challenge. You want to simplify and support the process, not overcomplicate it. Solutions such as Labelmaster’s hazmat shipping software solution, DGIS, is an example of how data and technology work together for success in hazardous shipping processes.

Whether you’re transporting dangerous goods by sea, road, rail or air, one common element is ever-present: the human factor. This factor is identified in several studies as one of the main culprits of risk when evaluating potential issues in transporting dangerous goods. One specific study conducted by Jelizaveta Janno and Ott Koppel from Tallinn University of Technology, School of Engineering, Estonia, states that, “…the risk of DGT is strongly related to a human factor as all decisions, processes and procedures within a transportation chain are made by different parties involved.”

The authors explain that every part of the transportation process of these dangerous goods involve the human factor in some capacity, as seen with the previous point of autonomous vehicles and the required human presence for parts of the process.

This brings the conversation to the topic of adequate training. With all the technology, innovation and automation in the world, the human factor will almost always be present. This is not a bad thing, it is a wakeup call that technology cannot fix what thorough training, education and accountability can.

In another blog from Labelmaster, survey results from the annual Dangerous Goods Symposium revealed that the complex nature of hazmat and dangerous goods regulations, along with lack of robust education efforts, are causing headaches for a variety of shippers in the supply chain. One survey responder specifically cited the need for curriculum specific to the dangerous goods arena of supply-chain management.

Training and education (on regulations and operations) must be held to a higher standard for those filling positions in the supply chain, but especially for those handling dangerous goods at every level. Without this imperative part of the equation, technology and innovation efforts will be compromised. The investment must start with the employees and with leadership.

Before investing heavily in the next technology solution on the market, look carefully at the internal processes first. Take an honest inventory of how compliance is managed, how paperwork is processed, and the quality of employee communications. Recall the example from the experts at Labelmaster: Technology is a part of the bigger picture. When one pillar is impacted, they are all impacted.

innovation

Remote Innovation Is More Than Possible: Six Tips From a Tech and Digital Revolutionary

A few years ago, Centric Consulting team member Carmen Fontana launched her first Artificial Intelligence project. The goal? Craft machine learning to predict and manage human resources conundrums, such as project staffing. The initiative involved a new-to-Carmen technology, a dual-shore team and a healthy dose of ambiguity. We funded her anyway.

Carmen was participating in Centric’s newly minted innovation incubator which allows any employee to conceive and share product and process improvement ideas. Her idea was stellar, even if the roadmap was sketchy at best.

Carmen thought if companies like Netflix, Amazon and Spotify could observe, record and learn user behavior, allowing them to continually fine-tune their recommendation algorithms far beyond the scope of a traditional Boolean (and/or) statement, then HR could do the same with staffing.

Although much about this innovation journey may sound familiar — from the ambiguity of methods to the lofty (but vision-packed) goals — there’s one core element that most likely does not:

The entire project took place remotely. And we were even able to use it to guide our weekly staffing calls.

Since its inception 20 years ago, Centric has had a thriving “office-optional” workforce, which has grown from just a handful of people to more than 1,000 employees in 13 cities in the U.S. and India.

At a time when everyone is struggling to transition to remote work while innovating, we’ve won an award while doing just that. This year, we were included in Fast Company’s list of “100 Best Workplaces for Innovators.”

As we all hunker down in our separate home offices, physically apart, the stakes around innovation are only increasing. Innovation will remain a key differentiator in the market today and tomorrow. And there’s no turning back from the changes the pandemic has brought to the workplace.

Luckily, remote innovation is something that can be planned for, managed and grown, much like every other aspect of remote work. Below is our blueprint for keeping the creative wheels turning and amping up innovation when employees aren’t always working side-by-side:

Make Extemporaneous Encounters Intentional

The right collaboration tools can create the same sort of opportune encounters that Apple and Pixar champion while also facilitating remote collaboration. Microsoft Teams and Slack, for example, provide an online space for people to talk about new ideas and track progress on innovation projects.

While working on a recent Healthcare VR project, for instance we managed all of our interactions through a Microsoft Teams space — including meetings, brainstorming chats, project management and the collection of all of our teams’ output and materials.

Start a Problems-to-Be-Solved Repository

Nothing triggers innovation like having a problem you’re itching to solve. That’s where a remote repository of problems comes in handy. The more people contribute to the repository, the better: Innovation requires a lot of ideas coming in from a variety of people.

Although you do want to collect as many ideas as possible, you also want to provide some guidelines to make sure those ideas align in some way to larger company goals or to real client or industry challenges.  A repository can be a great tool for vetting which new ideas fit the bill.

A repository can also connect a firm’s natural innovators with employees who may not have an idea to offer but are strong problem-solvers and creative thinkers. Successful innovation efforts engage both types of people.

Hold Sessions Geared Towards Innovation-Generation

Whether in-person or remote, innovation-focused sessions for gathering and testing the latest thinking, ideas and problems are key. Employees usually leave these sessions energized and excited to be part of something new.

One recent example is Expedition: Data, an in-person event to encourage and develop machine learning and data science talent. Early this spring, Centric employees worked with Microsoft and RevLocal, a national digital marketing company, to come up with innovative ways to use Microsoft’s Azure Suite and other tools to improve RevLocal’s employee and customer retention. The winning team got bragging rights and $100 Amazon gift cards.

Institute A Virtual Innovation Lab

Too many organizations focus only on getting ideas, neglecting what comes next. If one of your employees has a concept they want to explore, do they know how to go about developing it?

Centric created its Virtual Innovation Lab to guide innovators as they explore their idea and see if it has legs. The lab acts as a collaboration portal and provides tools and resources for remote teams to work through the innovation lifecycle, helping them overcome major hurdles as they mature their concept and get it to the minimum viable product (MVP) stage.

Our virtual lab essentially provides a blueprint for rapid prototyping using agile development and human experience design principles, among other innovation frameworks. The goal is to help innovators quickly assess proof of concept and proof of value. This is important. If something works, that’s great, but is it feasible from an operational standpoint? Does it actually provide value to the end users or customers? Does it solve a real problem? If the answer is no to any of these questions, your innovator either needs to pivot or kill the project.

Be Deliberate About Forming Teams

Our virtual innovation process relies on agile development, which in its purest form requires teams to be together every day. So how do we get around that as a remote company? We’re very intentional about how we put teams together.

While self-forming teams can work and come together easily when you’re in an office setting, in a virtual environment, team formation needs to be more deliberate. To do this, get to know your internal network and who has what skills, capabilities and passions. Use that knowledge to build teams that will mesh well and play off one another’s strengths. The goal is to virtually replicate the relationships and collaborative spirit that happen effortlessly in an office.

Make Transparency Your Mission

As with any effort in your organization, communication plays a critical role. And in a virtual environment, it’s easy to forget to share information or see what your teammates are doing. That’s why we’ve made transparency a key focus for our virtual innovation lab.

Transparency is not only vital for networking and team building, but it’s also necessary for defining the success metrics that matter. Innovation isn’t easy — and intentionally prioritizing transparency forces learning and greater understanding. Perfection and polish are not required (at least not until the idea is commercialized). Drive the difficult conversations now, and always try to operate in the light.

Treat Failure As Additive, Not Subtractive

Many companies are failure-phobic, and in the interest of profits, many penalize employees and divisions for losing money. But innovation only succeeds through trial and error.

To innovate, you have to embrace failure and help your teams do the same. Give them the tools and the space to test new ideas or processes. Celebrate their efforts regardless of the outcome. Organize sessions – remote or in-person –  where they share stories about their failures. We have, and it has served us well.

disruptions

Preparing for Future Supply Chain Disruptions: Insights from the Field

Organizations across all industries—from automotive, consumer goods, and pharmaceuticals to transportation, electronics, and oil and gas—have felt the disruptive effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Turning the global supply chain on its head, COVID-19’s impact has cut across multiple facets of international trade, including manufacturing, import/export, logistics, compliance, and supply chain management. This disruption has been a wake-up call for organizations worldwide, prompting them to assess their readiness to respond reliably, expediently, and effectively to rapidly evolving risk factors going forward.

Disruption Is Inevitable

Whether driven by an unprecedented pandemic or events that are more familiar, like trade wars or frequent duty and tariff changes, future disruptions to the flow of goods are unavoidable and companies must be as prepared as possible. Case in point: on June 29, the amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) came into force, impacting U.S. companies that export goods, software, and technology to China, Russia, and Venezuela.

A few days later on July 1, a new free trade agreement entered into force as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While the USMCA is designed to provide “significant improvements and modernized approaches to rules of origin, agricultural market access, intellectual property, digital trade, financial services, labor, and numerous other sectors,” companies must respond efficiently to changes in import duties, tariffs, and rules of origin verification procedures in order to avoid compliance issues.

The current government’s uncertain trade relations with China, BREXIT’s unfolding impact on U.K. trade, and evolving pandemic predictions are just a handful of factors that may unsettle global supply chains going forward. With disruption an unavoidable consequence of doing business in 2020, successful companies are securing their supply chains by prioritizing operational responsiveness, agility, and adaptability in order to keep goods flowing while avoiding compliance violations and penalties.

Are You Prepared?

Today’s businesses are keenly aware of the importance of keeping a close eye on their sources of raw materials, parts, and finished products to ensure logistics costs do not erode overall profit margins. But COVID-19 caught many companies off guard, throwing their sourcing strategies and revenue flow into crisis.

Descartes’ 2020 Global HTS Classification Benchmark Survey of importers, shippers, logistics and supply chain operators, and customs brokers around the globe analyzed the impact of the supply chain disruption on companies’ operations and ascertained how they are addressing issues for the long-term.

The survey found that 35% of respondents were forced to research alternative suppliers or locations as a result of the pandemic. An additional one-third felt increased pressure to identify ways to reduce duty and tariff costs in order to shore up the shrinking bottom line.

Lessons Learned: Count On Technology

For those survey respondents forced to look for alternative suppliers due to COVID-19, many also looked to advanced technology solutions to address the more demanding workload and support the shift to a distributed workforce and the ‘remote working’ model.

In their leaning towards more advanced technology, approximately three-quarters of respondents were aiming to establish a workflow process for mass classification and to create an audit trail for proof of due diligence; sixty-eight percent were seeking a collaborative online classification process, while 55% sought configurable classification rule sets for different industries and product categories.

The Descartes survey also found that the majority of companies—not just those impacted by COVID-19—are adopting more advanced technology to enhance responsiveness to change and to increase resiliency. Regardless of the number of SKUs classified annually, businesses are recognizing the value of additional layers of protection against the unknown to help ensure their import operations remain viable during turbulent times.

Keep Agility and Responsiveness Top of Mind

Prior to switching to av more automated and integrated research and classification solution, most respondents surveyed were using labor-intensive and error-prone manual methods; a massive 81% were accessing multiple government websites to access classification data and 46% were looking up information in hardcopy books—an unacceptable drain on valuable time and resources and a serious impediment to pivoting swiftly in the face of disruption.

Respondents using advanced global trade intelligence solutions, with up-to-date tariff data accessed from a single system, reportedly accelerated the classification process by 30% to 100%. This increase in speed is a critical piece of the preparedness strategy, as companies aim to focus on agility to keep goods moving during market volatility.

Future-proof Your Organization

New disruptions to the global supply chain may be just around the corner. A proactive global trade intelligence strategy will help organizations continue to drive commerce while ensuring trade compliance in the face of inevitable change:

1. Take advantage of more advanced technologies to maintain compliance efficiency and accuracy as workload demands increase, as well as to better manage a more distributed workforce.

2. Look to technology solutions to increase the resilience and responsiveness of trade compliance programs.

3. Ensure a single point of access to research complex international trade information, including up-to-date HTS codes, duties and tariff treatments, rulings, and explanatory notes.

4. Use a robust solution to effectively exercise and establish a “standard of reasonable care” for product classification.

With the impact of COVID-19 on sanctions and export controls still not fully known, compliance professionals should re-evaluate their global trade compliance strategy, honing it to boost adaptability, agility, and responsiveness to change. By leveraging advanced global trade intelligence technologies, companies can better insulate themselves from the fallout of future supply chain disruptions while minimizing duty spend and achieving higher trade compliance rates in the process. For compliance professionals everywhere, the age-old Boy Scout adage rings true: Be prepared.

manufacturing

How Automation is Shaping the Manufacturing Industry

Without a doubt, technology has been instrumental in revolutionizing most, if not all, industries around the world.

However, even in the face of this undeniable truth, some businesses remain hesitant about integrating certain innovations, such as automation, into their operations. Esteemed economist Christine McDaniel explained how this resistance may be due to the overblown anxiety over the false claim that automation will leave millions of blue- and white-collared professionals jobless for good.

Be that as it may, with the ongoing crisis requiring manufacturers to take certain safety measures, the dynamics between automation and this specific industry has to change in order to keep up with the times. Furthermore, a lot of experts believe that automation could be the very technology that will prepare and allow the manufacturing sector to thrive in a post-pandemic world. To give you a clearer picture, here are some of the ways automation is shaping the manufacturing industry these days:

Raise savings and cut costs

Over 478 billion of the 749 billion working hours spent on manufacturing-related activities worldwide were automatable. The aforementioned 478 billion hours, which is equivalent to $2.7 trillion worth of labor costs, provides a great opportunity for manufacturers to increase savings. In addition, a new generation of robots that are not only flexible and versatile but also relatively cheaper can help cut costs in the long run and increase the scalability of manufacturing businesses.

Enhance resiliency and simplify processes

In the face of an ongoing global health crisis, most manufacturing plants have been left with no choice but to operate below full capacity and strategically schedule workers to limit the number of employees in a specific location at any given time. And with how tedious this task can be, it’s easy to see how some manufacturing managers could easily run into challenges when coordinating the workers and the machines. Fortunately, Verizon Connect details how manufacturing managers can rely on automated software that can make the intricate process of job scheduling and machine coordinating easy and hassle-free.

Increase labor productivity

As with every other industry, automation has the ability to make businesses even more efficient. With machines and robots that can get more tasks done within a given time frame compared to traditional manual options, manufacturers can look forward to a significantly reduced production lead time and a greater total rate of production. Moreover, automation can also help accomplish seemingly impossible manual tasks that often require precision and accuracy to a greater extent. Economics Help also mentions how automation can enable factories to produce a greater range of goods that come in different sizes and designs, as well as being suited to different functions.

Improve workplace safety

Even without the pandemic, safety has always been a significant concern for manufacturers. After all, data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace injuries and accidents, which are more frequent in this field, can cost businesses nearly $62 billion per year. For many years now, on-the-job injuries have been gradually falling, thanks to machines and robots that have been doing all the heavy lifting, taking over repetitive tasks and eliminating the need for employees to work in extremely hazardous environments. In the coming years, manufacturers can continue counting on automation when it comes to making hazardous workplaces safer.

As the world braces itself for a future that’s been completely changed by the current crisis, the manufacturing industry’s reliance on automation will only run deeper, and it’s easy to see why. After all, automation has the ability to raise savings and cut costs, enhance resiliency and simplify processes, increase labor productivity and improve workplace safety.

supply chain

How COVID-19 is Accelerating the Rise of Digitalization in Supply Chain

COVID-19 has brought about a digital transformation with businesses transferring their operations to deal with restricted movement, supply interruption, and office closures.

Predictably, all industries are running in a constant state of instability, and businesses are left with no other choice but to keep redesigning their strategies to adapt to the changing behavior of the consumers. For some companies, it meant shifting from conferences, meetings, and events to virtual streaming, or replacing B2B with the direct-to-consumer model. As individuals and businesses adapt to the newfound measures, people are discovering more productive methods to perform the same task, which is already making a major impact on the digital roadmap.

While digitalizing operational processes has been on the agenda of all companies big or small, it was something they always seem to put off. Automated end to end operational processes or live chat has always been something that businesses talked about but would ultimately put it on the back burner because they could not account for the impact of internal change to support it.

Things have changed. Businesses are now implementing new processes overnight and have already adjusted to the technology and eased into the changes. This quick progression of digital processes has brought about a new mindset, welcoming the future with an open mind to give the new technology a chance.

Obstacles that used to prevent businesses from welcoming innovations hardly correlated to the technology in question. They were rather tied to an unwillingness to change existing ways of systems and bureaucracy. Now that businesses have no choice but to welcome remote working, they have become more flexible and open to trying out new approaches.

Lately, Departments have now recorded a change in priorities with regard to its clients’ digital pipeline, ranging from internationally recognized brands to SMEs. One can’t help but wonder if COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation.

Twitter (Susanne Wolk) Digital Transformation Quiz

 

Predicting the Unforeseeable 

In a fast-changing and unpredictable environment, the only way to adapt is to collect real-time, accurate data.

With digitized track and trace systems, you can spot your goods, locate where they are, and keep track of how they are selling. Barcoding is steadily being replaced by RFID tagging in managing this. The reason behind this is because as opposed to manual scanning, an RFID tag relays data simply by being in a sensor’s proximity. They seamlessly feed into the Internet of Things (IoT) and help you find your merchandise, track shipment conditions, and secure it to a database for scheduled invoicing, reporting, and replenishment without any human input.

In a survey recently reported by Zebra Technologies, 52% of firms out of 950 participating IT decision-makers in different organizations from 9 countries are currently utilizing RFID technology while 34% are planning to implement it in the coming years.

Business intelligence becomes a lot easier once the data is encapsulated. Dashboarding, which is centered visualization of important metrics, can now be achieved with a level of accuracy and speed that wasn’t otherwise possible. Whether you are tracking yearly freight volumes, operational compliance, or staff levels, new technology has made collecting and organizing the data painless and instant.

The advent of COVID-19 has highlighted the limitation of the human workforce and market unpredictability. Organizations are now on their way to fast-track the execution of this technology and one can expect to see a quantum leap in its adoption. Even after the economy recovers from this pandemic, it will enable organizations handling a lot of data to make informed strategic decisions. Additionally, the decrease in the physical handling of goods will also improve hygiene in workplaces.

Supplier Strain Management 

Managing unpredictable demand normally forces businesses to negotiate with suppliers, use up backup resources, and order with a certain level of elasticity. When operating in a global pandemic like today, these actions are not effective enough to safeguard the supply chain.

Information is everything. How much product are you able to buy, stock, and trade? Is there a way to help struggling suppliers by negotiating another product mix or placing large orders in advance? You can only know this with accurate data about your present shipment.

In the long run, businesses will likely diversify their supplier base due to COVID-19 and change consumer behavior as we have already witnessed in situations like the tariff war between U.S.-China and Brexit. Businesses no longer rely on just one country for their manufacturing needs. Instead, they have started to diversify operations by employing neighboring countries for production or shifting it closer to consumer markets which give them the flexibility to be able to pivot if a given location faces reduced capacity.

Traversing Transportation Difficulties 

Today, businesses are facing a lot of issues due to closed borders and restrictions on international transport. Those that are able to have a stronghold on the whereabouts of their shipment at any given time gain a competitive advantage. When a business is able to locate where exactly a shipment is holding and how long it will take to arrive, they gain the maximum level of flexibility should it be delayed or routed.

For instance, slow steaming has become quite common in the industry. This is an intentional choice of opting for slower methods of transportation in order to delay the delivery of non-perishables. By this method of “floating storage”, it buys time for the destination warehouses to create space for storage or find other ways to market in case of closed primary outlets. Such a strategy can be pulled off only with the help of accurate tracking processes which in turn will allow an unparalleled chance for responsiveness.

With the help of a reliable logistics partner, you will be able to navigate disruption. Find a partner that will be able to provide real-time updates on transit options and supply chains. Some years back, this would have taken several weeks to develop such a sophisticated view. But thanks to advanced technology, it has been reduced to minutes.

Moving Stagnant Stock

Businesses today are still investing large sums of money into leased or owned physical spaces and in certain cases, it is done without simultaneously building their online channels or presence. This pandemic is exposing the defect in failing to provide an omni-channel, with even powerful organizations having a hard time to move stock.

As the saying goes, the best time to develop your website would have been ten years ago; now is the second best time. As retailers, a central part of their strategy for growth should be e-commerce. When it comes to client inquiries, service providers must have a lead-generation website. Businesses sometimes need to be conducted face to face however, brands today require a reliable digital home. When you invest in the power of online presence, it unlocks a whole new world of global business opportunities to boost sales by connecting with customers.

Should your stock pile up, you will get sufficient warnings through the digital tracking systems. This in turn will give you enough time to pivot. A good way is to shift your non-perishable products to another space in your network. Diversify your offering by redeploying your unused equipment. You can also donate your surplus perishables to local charities and shelters as a goodwill gesture.

Supply chain technology has become accessible and powerful like never before and businesses that make use of it will pull through this pandemic. As we steer past the effects of this global disruption, both shippers and logistics companies will come to see that investing in automation and data furnishes the power to make agile, smart decisions.

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Robert Jordan, a seasoned marketing professional with over 10 years of experience, currently working as Media Relations Manager at InfoClutch Inc, which provides technology database including Quickbooks customers list & many more technologies for your marketing campaign. Have expertise in setting up the lead flow for budding startups and takes it to the next level. Have a deep interest in SEO, SEM & Social Media related discussions. Always open for new ideas & discussions.

information technology

Investing in Technology to Build Knowledge-Based Companies

Executives understand how knowledge management as facilitating organizational processes and activities uses information technology to organize existing information. Information technology plays a crucial role in creating, retrieving, storing and applying organizational knowledge stated by Maryam Alavi and Dorothy Leidner’s MIS Quarterly review.

Executives focus on individuals as the major source of knowledge and show how followers tie together so that they can affect the sharing, storage, transfer, and apply knowledge within organizations. Executives, therefore, see these connections, and the related shared knowledge and memory, as central to the effectiveness of knowledge management.

How Technology Matters?

Executives are well versed today on information technology and usually have a fleet of followers in this department that they can depend on. Sandy Weil, a financial executive, wanted one number when he left the office that determined his value at risk. His technology team delivered and came up with one number called VAR (Value At Risk). Wiel slept much better knowing what risk he faced while running one of the largest financial organizations in the world. He was controlling operational risk and inspiring employees to follow where he leads.

Technology, as one would imagine, is often associated with information and communication dispersed within companies. Considerable alignment between information technology and the knowledge-based view connects the two to develop and disseminate knowledge throughout the organization which, in turn, is an important factor of sustainable competitive advantage.

Executives agree with Robert Grant, who states that knowledge integration is one of the main reasons for the existence of companies. Furthermore, Andrew Gold, Arvind Malhotra, and Albert Segars suggest information technology as an important resource for strategic planning for knowledge integration. Olivier Caya posits that information technology enables knowledge integration by using three possible mechanisms:

1. Impersonal

2. Personal

3. Collective

Executives can use the impersonal mechanism to enact regulations, procedures, and rules aimed at coordinating intellectual capital within organizations. Information technology disseminates protocols among members and allows them to be knowledgeable of their progress toward meeting determined milestones stated in the strategic plans.

The personal mechanism is used by executives to vertically and horizontally exchange knowledge between employees and collective mechanism is used when information technology manifests itself as a synthesizer of ideas and knowledge acquired from multiple organizational members. Thus, information technology encourages people to embark on technological facilities, such as shared electronic workspaces, to provide new ideas and possible solutions for solving organizational problems. As a result, it is viewed that information technology plays a critical role in integrating knowledge and is therefore aligned with the knowledge-based view.

Executives can use information technology as a communication mechanism manifestation and deployment and decision-aid technology. For example, Hsin-Jung Hsieh argues that communication technology provides ways to enhance interactions among members and departments within organizations. This type of technology eliminates the barriers of organizational communications while improving the extent of knowledge sharing and access for all followers at various levels of the organization.

Thus, there is a strong correlation between communication technology and social capital view that sheds light on the development of relationships within organizations to aggregate human capital into social capital so as to provide further information and opportunities for all members. This subsequently creates valuable resources for an organization as a whole.

Furthermore, decision-aid technology develops cohesive infrastructures to store and retrieve the knowledge to enable followers in creating more innovative solutions to problems and managing operational risks. Ergo, information technology supports knowledge by enabling interactions and providing more comprehensive and effective solutions to solve organizational problems.

Unleashing the Power of Knowledge in Companies

Today, technology has changed the business world ten-fold. Every day there is an easier way to process, access, and disseminate information. Technology – now referred to as Information technology – is an internal resource that increasingly facilitates organizational communication and improves the search for knowledge. When executives have people in place to manage information technology, the organization can see increased revenues, better satisfaction by employees and customers, and most importantly enhance their own effectiveness as leaders.

The social capital view supports the idea that knowledge creation is highly dependent on developing organizational communications and interactions. Information technology enables organizations to overcome space constraints in communication, and promotes the depth and range of knowledge access and sharing within companies.  More specifically, communication technologies can be employed to enhance the conversations and knowledge exchanges between organizational members. Scholars such as Andrew Gold, Arvind Malhotra and Albert Segars argue that this knowledge shared through information technology could positively contribute to knowledge integration.

I also introduced executives to what the scholar Robert Grant describes using the knowledge-based view. Highlighting knowledge integration as a major reason for the existence of a company. Knowledge sharing itself can develop more innovative climates and facilitate knowledge creation in organizations. Thus, communication technologies can play a crucial role in improving knowledge creation.

Communication technology is an internal resource that develops and integrates organizational knowledge as the most strategic factor of competitiveness. As executives use expert systems for decision-making, technology becomes a decision-aid. As mentioned earlier, decision-aid technology can be also considered as a facilitator of the knowledge creation process by providing the essential infrastructures to store and retrieve organizational knowledge.

Executives agree with Shahnawaz Muhammed who highlights major functions for information technology and explains that information technology enhances learning and sharing knowledge by providing access to knowledge, and stimulates new ideas and knowledge generation, transfers an individual’s knowledge to other members and departments, and improves knowledge capturing, storing, and accumulating, aiming at achieving organizational goals. Bringing us to the conclusion that information tech has a positive association with knowledge management performance in companies.

In Conclusion

Standing on the shoulders of scholars before us, I indicate that information technology is a major factor for knowledge management success and supports the positive impact of information technology on knowledge management performance.

For executives, this article can portray a more detailed picture of the effects of information technology on knowledge management. Many organizations still implement knowledge management initiatives without sufficient consideration of their technological infrastructures.

When executives ensure the effectiveness of knowledge management projects they increase control and lesson operational risk. I also suggest that a firm’s ability to enhance knowledge management can be highly affected when executives implement information technology. Furthermore, I suggest that scholars take these ideas and continue to conduct research using executives as the focal point so that academic scholarship can meet the needs of managerial implications at the higher echelons of organizations worldwide.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

business tools

5 Mistakes Businesses Make When Selecting Business Tools

There are so many things that go into setting your business for success. One of them is ensuring you have the best business tools that offer longevity, consistency, resilience, scalability, and comprehensive real-time visibility throughout your operations. But with a plethora of different types of tools out there, finding the right ones for your business can be a challenge. Here are 5 common mistakes you should avoid to help you invest in the right tools and use them effectively.

1. Expecting Technology to Solve Process-related Issues

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is expecting technology to resolve problems with their processes and procedures. Although technology can enhance your speed, efficiency, and profitability, it tends to augment the already available operational effectiveness. If your company is well organized and has error-free processes, technology can automate repetitive processes, save you time, and help you grow profits. If your company is disorganized and with messed up processes, technology will only intensify that incompetence.

Tip: When incorporating new tools to your business, look for those that help you optimize your existing processes or recommends better processes. If you don’t have error-free procedures and processes in place, start by developing them and ensuring your company is working on paper.

2. Not Considering Multiple Opinions

Another common mistake that many businesses make in the process of buying business tools is having an unclear idea of what’s required instead of precise requirements. It’s extremely easy to examine and invest in the best solution when you’ve a clear idea of what you expect from the system. Companies miss requirements
when they leave the selection process to only technical personnel or a small team of leaders. Depending on one individual or department’s viewpoints is extremely narrow, particularly if several departments will be using the new system every day.

Tip: Involve various stakeholders in the process of selecting your business tools even if it’s those for opening a zip file. Remember while working employees will need tools that enable them to open and compress large files. Assemble a team of staff that can champion the needs of their respective departments. Once you gather viewpoints from a variety of future users, you can now design a requirements document to guide you in the entire selection process. Apart from issues you’re aspiring to solve, a good requirements document should also include important features that new tool(s) should have.

3. Relying on Recommendations Only

While recommendations from friends can be really helpful when you’re looking for the best software solutions for your business, they can also be risky if not accompanied by thorough research. Your friends may be running a business related to yours, but they may be following different processes or using different features in the tool. When purchasing solely on recommendation, you run the risks of expecting a tool to perform functions that are beyond its capability.

Tip: The right tools should meet the unique needs and requirements of your business. So even as you seek recommendations from your peers, consider following them up with in-depth research.

4. Buying Without Trying

Most business tools come with some sort of free trial or free plan. So before making a purchase, run the tool in one or two locations and see how it’s working. This applies to even tools for opening a zip file. Remember trial mode is designed to help you assess performance (speed and dependability) and see how the application works.

Tip: During the trial mode, ask yourself, “Does this tool function and feel like a perfect fit for my business?” Your answer to this question will help you decide whether you’ll buy the application or you’ll go on with your search.

5. Failure to Invest in Future-proofed Solutions

Investing in tools to fix immediate problems is another mistake many businesses make. This shortsighted approach has left many businesses having to deal with expensive and lengthy upgrades, hectic re-implementations, and continued reliance on tools that
actually frustrates their expansion plans.

Pro Tip: Before investing in any software solution, think about the ways your business needs and requirements are likely to change in the future. Then, choose a solution that’s continuously expanding on current functionalities and incorporating new capabilities.

Final Thoughts

Businesses must ask the right questions, know the common pitfalls to avoid, and perform enough due diligence before investing in any business tools. They should invest in solutions that allow them not only to fix immediate problems but also their future challenges.

manufacturing

Predictions, Prophets, and Restarting Your Manufacturing Business Amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has created a drastic effect on global health and the economy. Every nation is struggling to deal with the challenge of keeping its residents protected against coronavirus. Businesses are witnessing huge financial losses owing to a reduced/lack of workforce and other resources. If we talk about the manufacturing industry, it also has been hit hard by the corona crisis, and the fact that it has a huge role to play amidst coronavirus lockdown, this impact is felt the most by everyone.

The global supply chain got disrupted because of coronavirus, and since it originated in China, which is considered as the biggest manufacturing market globally, the ability of the manufacturing industry to meet the needs of the customers came down significantly.

So, let us throw some light on the impact of coronavirus on the manufacturing industry, and figure out some effective ways that can help manufacturers restart their business proficiently.

The Prophets and Prediction

The Prophet: The problem with prophecies is that they are based on data that is just a few weeks old, which is not sufficient for business leaders to make hard, cold business decisions when it comes to coming back in the market.

The Prediction: With social distancing becoming a norm, most of the people look forward to buying online. This clearly means that the scope of eCommerce is on the rise, and manufacturers will be looking to make a shift gradually.

Restarting Your Manufacturing Business

Every business is looking to return to the market, but due to the measures that are being adopted to reduce or prevent coronavirus are affecting the supply chains directly, which, in turn, is leading to disruptions in the manufacturing operations worldwide.

If we talk about the manufacturing industries like automobiles where production is done on a massive scale, the schedules for production are rigid and efficiency-optimized. In a similar way, the working of supply chains is dependent on schedules that are fixed like months ago based on the demand projections. Still, automobile owners are looking forward to remodeling such systems to be able to meet the irregular demand atmosphere.

Every crisis consists of several challenges, but one should look for opportunities within them. So, keeping the new norms of personal protection and social distancing, businesses need to redesign their business models.

To help businesses get started again, we are providing some guidelines that will help them to:

-Evaluate the organization’s COVID-19 safety compliance and requirements.

-Restructure the workplace for personal safety and protection.

-Implement procedures for personal protection.

-Put into practice the action plan for restarting to ensure a secure future of the company.

As per a Deutsche Bank analysis, the growth of GDP on the global level will be lower in 2020 due to the coronavirus effects. This effect will leave its impact on most of the U.S. and Europe, with growth forecasts on the global front also likely to drop by 0.2 percent.

Taking Care of the Workforce

The manufacturing industry is dependent on its workforce, and most of them proceeded towards their hometown owing to the fear of contracting coronavirus. In order to get its workforce back, a manufacturing company must keep track of the health status of every worker, along with gaining knowledge on the happenings in their areas through digital mediums. This will help them in knowing from which parts of the country they can call back their workforce to restart the manufacturing processes.

However, at this point in time, most of the manufacturers have to wait, and even if they are able to start the operations with a minimal workforce, they will be unable to manage their other important processes like accounting. In such cases, opting for Outsourcing manufacturing accounting services becomes imperative.

Securing Supply and Inventory

Instant delivery and globalization have turned out to be huge risk areas. Suppliers, including sub-suppliers, are all going through a similar situation. During such crisis situations, a huge concern comes to the top since procurement teams are unable to have close contact with their manufacturing suppliers. This, in turn, restricts them from monitoring the capacity of the production on a weekly/daily basis or evaluating the latest logistics prices and routes.

Now, with COVID-19, supply and inventory are in a position where there is a high risk of contractual defaults and severe legal action concerning the inability to fulfill orders on time or otherwise.

Why do Manufacturers Need to Rethink their Restart Strategies?

Most of the manufacturers are ready with their restart strategies and looking forward to implementing them ASAP. These new strategies are primarily focused on:

-The use of digitalization to receive data and have a superior visualization of the supply chain with control-centric solutions.

-Automation and robots to enhance the flexibility of the plant, including the capacity to run significant processes remotely or alone.

There is no denying that manufacturers are moving in the right direction, but they need to figure out for how long and at what pace they can carry out their production with a minimal workforce, technology support, and funds. The reason being local and international supply chains are disrupted, and one cannot say till how long this situation remains the same.

If a manufacturer is heavily dependent on the demand of a specific region or country, he may have to slow down his operations due to a lack of demand because of COVID-19. Low demand means a low supply and returns, leaving little funds for the manufacturer to operate. So, manufacturers need to assess their new strategies from every angle so that they are ready to face the forthcoming unexpected challenges.

This is a challenging situation for manufacturers for sure, and they cannot halt their operations for long. The above-mentioned suggestions will surely help manufacturers to not just get started but ensure smooth business operations in the future. Yes, they need to devise strategies, keeping in mind not just the present scenario but the possibility of forthcoming events, to stand strong against any unfavorable circumstances that might arise in the future.

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Gia Glad works as a Business Development Manager at Cogneesol, a well-renowned company offering data management, technology, accounting, and legal services. While handling the projects, she has witnessed a lot of changes over the years. She has been thoroughly researching and sharing her viewpoints about these industry trends and changes on many platforms across the Internet.

businesses

Five Ways Businesses Changed Their Daily Operations for Good

The future is arriving quickly. There’s already been talk about how COVID-19 has accelerated automation, and some jobs will be changed if they come back at all. There’s no doubt the recent pandemic is shaping how we do business, from restaurants and retail spaces to even how we manufacture goods. And with many states reopening in phases, or just outright reopening, what does “getting back to business” look like as we forge ahead?

The supply chain gets a wakeup call

During the pandemic, shortages of masks and hand sanitizer rocked many supermarkets like Walmart and Costco. With such a quick spike, and having such a large gap to fill in the supply chain, distilleries stepped in with safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Clothing companies engineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials. Auto manufacturers teamed up to help produce ventilators. The list goes on.

One of the biggest attributes many companies needed to stay successful and stay in business? Flexibility. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, businesses had to figure things out overnight. That included a new way to make goods that people desperately needed.

The upside? Now you can see hand sanitizer in repurposed liquor bottles at many grocery stores across the U.S.

But all of this was a symptom of a larger issue.

“Early on, much of the economic impact that companies in the U.S. experienced were related to supply-side disruption due to shutdowns in other countries,” said Thomas Hartland-Mackie, President & CEO of City Electric Supply. “This pandemic has highlighted the danger of over-relying on a single manufacturing hub as well as a need to diversify sources to include local or domestic suppliers.”

With global trade, a smooth-functioning supply chain doesn’t exactly impact manufacturing. That is, until it gets rocky.

As a few supplies, like masks and hand sanitizers, reached mass critical demand all around the world, they plunged in availability. Hospitals, frontline workers, and more were left without protective gear required to safely do their jobs.

At the time, when these supplies were almost impossible to locate, domestic-made products were a necessity. They were easier to source and easier to ship when time was more important than ever. This could be the wakeup call manufacturing needs to move a little closer to home instead of relying on centralized factories on the other side of the world to fill gaps in the supply chain.

With this catastrophe still fresh in the minds of many businesses and governments, various shock scenarios will have to be considered more heavily to help rebuild the supply chain for a more resilient future.

Staying connected

The businesses that figured out how to stay connected with their customers, whether they were operating in a limited capacity or having to put business on hold completely, were the ones that added to their digital currency. But for most small businesses, digital currency could only take them so far. That meant developing alternative revenue streams to help them stay afloat, even if they were designated as essential businesses.

Restaurants and bars regularly teamed up with delivery services to help them maintain some cash flow during the lean months, including online ordering and curbside pickup. Personal trainers and fitness studios went digital with their classes to help keep their clients working out and to help keep their brand top of mind.

Other companies went a step further and identified gaps in the supply chain to fulfill in meaningful ways. As we mentioned before, distilleries helped make safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and clothing companies reengineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials.

All of this helped these businesses either keep cash flowing into the business, or at the very least, kept them in the minds of their customers long enough until they could reopen. From creative online solutions that let them continue operating to doubling down on marketing efforts to keep in touch virtually, the ones that stayed flexible and stayed connected weathered the pandemic better than others.

But also, what about the flood of statements from companies preaching togetherness in the first few weeks of the pandemic? Did that help customers feel more connected to their favorite businesses? Hartland-Mackie certainly thinks so.

“We’ve all heard those jokes about how people are receiving too many long emails from businesses explaining what they’re doing in response to COVID-19, but the reality is that customers appreciate it,” said Hartland-Mackie. “Customers want to hear from the companies they are loyal to and be reassured – as long as it is authentic – that businesses have their customers in mind as they make decisions.”

Remote work is not remote

Working in offices could be a thing of the past. Already high-profile companies like Twitter have announced indefinite work-from-home plans for their employees, and more will probably follow their lead. In an age of digital nomads, this could be a huge selling point for attracting talented workers.

When the pandemic first started, many companies had to figure out how to work 100% digitally practically overnight. This involved utilizing web-based communication programs like Skype, Zoom, and Slack to ensure teams were in constant communication with each other when it mattered most. Now, with some offices opening back up, some employees could be receiving more lenient work from home policies, or, at the very least, there may be less face-to-face meetings in the workplace.

Another huge benefit to remote working becoming more commonplace? (Aside from less meetings, of course.) Embracing the all-digital transformation can boost productivity. Now with a lot of the same information freely available for employees to do their job, there should be less presentations sharing known information across the company. Now, only vital information can be created and shared, freeing up more resources to resolve the most critical issues at hand along with more focused daily agendas.

It’s not delivery, it’s curbside pickup

Well, it’s a little bit of both. For essential businesses that couldn’t take advantage of “contactless” delivery, the next best bet was curbside pickup.

“As a federally designated essential business, City Electric Supply branches have stayed open, but we needed to provide ways to keep customers and employees as safe as possible. We began offering curbside pickup and it’s been so successful that we’ve received feedback from customers asking us to continue it as an ongoing service,” Hartland-Mackie said.

What was once seen as an added-value service was the main way for many businesses to maintain cash flow when customers were no longer allowed inside. And with the latest reopening efforts, some customers are still opting for curbside pickup in lieu of shopping themselves.

With how convenient curbside pickup is for keeping in-store capacity low — and for saving the time of customers who no longer have to spend time shopping or even getting out of their vehicles — this could soon be the new normal for many businesses.

Temperature checks

Whether or not customers should receive temperature checks has been up for some debate, but temperature checks of employees are being implemented in almost all states in various industries, including food service and healthcare. Even though workers could be asymptomatic, it still helps cut down on cases progressing to severe stages and worsening infection rates.

This has also had a snowball effect on various other issues related to work policies, from sick leave to hazard pay. Most employers are erring on the side of caution, allowing employees to stay home if they or someone they come into regular contact with have health issues that put them at risk of infection.

With daily operations coming under such a heavy microscope, this means that even employers are examining how existing sick policies have hurt more than helped. If more lenient and flexible policies have not already been put in place, expect it to happen as phased reopening progresses.

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Brad McElory is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply