The anatomy of the supply chain

posted by Amjad Hussain
18 April 2019

A supply chain is a complex system of interrelated parts which needs to be regularly monitored for problems. It makes sense to think of it as a human body - in which efforts must be made to keep it healthy.

While this may seem slightly unconventional, taking a step back and looking at your supply chain in the same way that you would assess and treat your own body may help you deal with problems.

In the supply chain anatomical structure, the eyes are the supply chain visibility, which requires an ability to see the whole supply chain at all times in order to solve problems as they are spotted. However, just like bad eyesight, poor visibility can lead to distorted conclusions and incorrect decisions.

Legs are the logistics networks moving projects from point A to B. It’s important to keep the foundation of your supply chain strong and efficient. Supply chain arms determine just how much of a supply load you can bear.

Your brain is, of course, the central hub of decision making, planning, and innovating. Just as your body would slow down when experiencing a problem, so does your supply chain. So how do you address these problems?

A robust, resilient and healthy supply chain is needed in order to set your business up for success. Often the same tools and healthy habits that keep your body humming along can be applied to managing your supply chain.

Numerous data-driven insights can provide the vision needed to spot and diagnose problems in your supply chain.

In the same way you may spot a bruise on your leg and therefore identify a problem with your body, your heat map - a visualization generated by network transactions plus internode data on picking, packing and shipping - can see which warehouses are showing low activity and where they are located.

Once you have spotted the symptoms of the problem in the supply chain, you can get to work on fixing it.

Like eyes passing along information to the brain, your heat map data must be passed on to the central decision-makers at your company.

This means that one of the central tenets of keeping your supply chain healthy is close communication between the different parts of your operation. The supply chain brain acts as the coordinator, making sure everything is in line and communicating with each other. Data must be easily accessible and shared so that solutions can be developed to solve problems. This keeps the supply chain in harmony — with each part working together to keep the larger machine functioning at top capacity.

When you go to see a specialist, you might need an X-ray to give you the vision you need regarding a potential problem.

Managing a supply chain might call for outside help as well. If you feel you need more advanced tools and insight to keep your supply chain healthy, don’t hesitate to seek out experts in the field who can give you the data and innovations needed to keep your supply chain operating smoothly.

It also makes sense to take advantage of all the remedies available. Just as a human body needs proper intake of vitamins and preventive care, a supply chain can use advanced technological tools in order to maintain its healthiness. AI and machine learning programs can maintain a healthy supply chain by prescribing orders and analyzing complex datasets. Blockchain is a newfound remedy to supply chain visibility, acting as laser eye surgery to improve visibility even further than internal data visualization.

Problems in the supply chain should not be underestimated. When one thing goes wrong it can result in further issues down the line. By looking at the supply chain in a holistic way like we do with our health, sickness in the supply chain can be cured, or better yet prevented.

 Amjad Hussain is the founder and CEO of Algo.ai, which connects artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and automation to retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.


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