Covid highlights supply chain tech limitations

20 October 2020

Three-quarters of businesses have found the pandemic has “propelled” technology problems to the forefront of operations, according to a survey.

The survey, by technology provider InterSystems, found 76% of senior business leaders said Covid had exacerbated challenges with supply chain management technology.

Respondents highlighted the biggest technology challenges that prevented many from meeting “rapid changes in consumer demand” were real-time visibility of data, issues with flexibility of processes, and problems performing analytics.

The survey polled over 700 senior leaders globally across three sectors: retail, consumer packaging goods and manufacturing.

Almost half (44%) said they had a lack of flexibility in existing processes, while 40% found difficulties performing analytics to inform business decisions, and suffered from inaccurate end-to-end visibility and reporting.

Lack of real-time data had disrupted operations and affected how quickly they could respond to changes in the consumer market, with only around one in 10 businesses (11%) able to access data less than an hour old. Some 15% experienced delays of up to three days.

Over a third (36%) were found to use six to seven software products to manage their end-to-end supply chain, and over a quarter (26%) used three to five software packages. The quantity of disparate systems has been highlighted as a likely factor causing “fragmented ecosystems, creating data silos, and impeding access to real-time data”, according to InterSystem.

InterSystem recommended organisations develop “end-to-end digital connections” to enable them to react to rapidly changing customer needs and demands and reconfigure quickly.

It added they need to consider how to ensure “a more agile and cohesive infrastructure that allows them to integrate data from across the supply chain in real-time to meet these changes faster and more easily”.

Joe Lichtenberg, product and industry marketing consultant at InterSystems, said: “The supply chain IT issues being faced by retail, CPG, and manufacturing organisations certainly aren’t new; however, Covid-19 has propelled them to the surface.

“They’ve highlighted the profound impact issues such as having largely manual processes within the supply chain and a lack of flexibility can have on their ability to respond to rapidly changing requirements. In particular, the lack of visibility and access to data is likely to be impeding their ability to use this information to achieve business goals and improve operations to meet demand.

“In turn, [disparate systems are] preventing organisations from obtaining the flexibility, scalability, and speed they require to make critical business decisions based on up-to-the-minute data – as evidenced during the peak of the pandemic when many were unable to rapidly scale to increased demand for certain products, such as sanitiser and toilet paper.”

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