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  May 27th, 2024 | Written by

The Supply Chain is Determined by Value. It’s Time we Recognize the People Driving that

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The term “value” is up there across every single business. In their objectives, corporate values, stakeholder priorities and so on. In Board meetings, strategy development and every day conversations.

Read also: Get More from Your Digital Value Chain

Supply Chain is no different. The sector is driven and defined by the value it adds and the value it accrues, and practically every decision across chains is made based on that fact.

But growing and maintaining that value isn’t a simple task. Except the difference now is that increased competition and increased globalization has made that challenge all the more challenging.

Brands are facing an unpredictable trade climate – one where conflict, cyberthreats, climate change, and the unexpected can cripple operations or even entire businesses. And the larger and more ambitious the supply chain, the larger and more complex these disruptions.

Today, value and resilience are intrinsically linked.

If businesses really want to mitigate loss, accelerate growth, and prepare their operations for any and every eventuality, then they need to start with the very people behind their Supply Chain.

Prediction to prevention to planning

That’s what Supply Chain teams do.

Managers and leads work harmoniously with a business’ operations and the wider chain to predict potential crises or challenges. Prevent them, or at least prevent some of the worst effects. And plan next steps. Even when there is no plan or rule book or “industry standard”.

We all know that not everything can be predicted or prevented. An incident of high severity will cost time, fuel and revenue. But the right managers and leads can mean the difference between a company that’s resilient, quick and strategic enough to recover. And one that’s not.

Take any major re-routing incident as an example. Without the efforts of Supply Chain teams finding alternative pathways, collaborating with partners, prioritizing business goals, and general logistics management, the rate of loss during these types of disruptions would likely be drastically higher. Not to mention the potential for loss of reputation, relationships and market positioning.

It might not be impacting every trader or supplier right now, but disruptions and inefficiencies are more than likely to increase.

Globalization has made trade and economies more connected than ever before, and consumer demand is at an all-time high. Two thumbs up for companies looking to expand their operations. But the unfortunate side effect is that a climate crisis in South America, or conflict in Europe could suddenly impact businesses in Canada or the UAE.

Because of – and apart from – this, we’re also seeing a much more regulated landscape, and one that’s growing steadily larger. Taxes, policies, legislation, sanctions – all a very present reality for businesses, and strategy and in-depth know-how has never been so imperative to adhere to the rules, and to avoid any slip-ups.

The more collaborators you add to the value chain, the more complex it can be to adhere to restrictions and regulations; managers and leads are the ones handling the cooks in the kitchen.

They might be the behind-the-scenes superheroes of global trade. But that’s not to say we can’t – and shouldn’t – do more to reduce pressures and maximize capabilities within Supply Chain teams. And if there’s any time to invest in the talent behind the trade, it’s now.

Out of sight, out of mind?

So why aren’t we acknowledging the value and influence Supply Chain teams have within businesses and trade? Depending on who you ask, you might get a simple or a complex answer.

Here’s my two cents.

For one, disruptions in the sector are so prevalent, it’s become an expectation for managers and leads to quickly and quietly handle situations. Document discrepancies (what you might class as smaller issues), to route closures (definitely larger scale issues) are far more common than the everyday consumer might think. 

Often these types of disruptions won’t reach the Board room until they’re a substantial threat, so it’s down to the teams to identify risks, sometimes before they even occur, and find the means to either prevent them entirely or reduce the impact they’ll have on supply.

That’s a lot of unseen labor.

Secondly, there’s a misnomer that siloed visibility doesn’t have significant operational consequences. What you might class as a smaller issue can still consume hours or days of resource, cost thousands upon thousands in returns, limit managers’ and leads’ strategic impact and so on. Not to mention the need to balance these incoming situations – big or small – whilst maintaining operational equilibrium.

Thirdly, it’s really difficult to quantify teams’ value into plain old dollars and cents. Really difficult. 

At its core, the Supply Chain is determined and led by value; value of products and trade;  partnerships and agreements; consumer satisfaction and reputation. Most, if not all of this is quantifiable in hard, cold figures. Leading to great business cases and greater investments.

But when it comes to calculating the value managers and leads create (in hard, cold figures), it’s near-impossible to find concrete numbers. Naturally, this makes it difficult for higher-ups to see just how much of their profit margin is driven by the quick actions and strategic thinking of Supply Chain teams. And how those teams could accelerate revenue and value with the right tools. 

Highly valued teams create high value brands

When you think of flight traffic controller, you think of one of the most complex and strenuous jobs to date; it goes largely unseen or unnoticed. But, it’s hugely valued. And rightly so.

Supply Chain teams are in the same league.

These are individuals who are at the very core of practically all of our goods, products, needs and wants. Sending aid overseas, supplying PPT during the pandemic, managing logistics during climate incidents: these are all people-critical pursuits that go down in history. They require huge coordination efforts, including from Supply Chain managers and leads.

And yet, it can be almost impossible to measure just how critical these roles are in global trade.

I’m not saying we need to conduct in-depth market research to understand the $$ and €€ teams bring to the sector. Although that would help. But appreciating the value managers and leads amass goes beyond that.

Intelligent software, intelligently implemented can change everything. It can transition Supply Chain teams away from crisis and task management, and enable them to develop greater, more strategic ways of working across the chain.

AI-led technology, like the Beebolt platform, can more efficiently segment priorities – from shipment tracking to team collaboration to purchase orders. Leaving the tech to streamline and manage the day-to-day, and managers and leads to focus on high-level needs.

Make no mistake, this isn’t about AI replacing individuals. This is about AI as an enabler, a built-in aid to drastically change how we see Supply Chain teams, their positions in the industry, and their value. Beebolt saves businesses thousands of hours and millions of dollars annually, if you’re still looking for figures. But it also reduces the pressures placed on teams to be and do it all, giving them the space to manage incidents as and when they occur.

And – you guessed it – it creates opportunity to drive value. For everyone.

Leaving you with more valuable teams and more resilient operations.