It hasn’t been the easiest 12 months for supply chain managers. Covid-19 brought about unprecedented disruption at a time when businesses are facing challenges of unpredictable trade tariffs and increases in marine fuel costs.
As volatility becomes the new normal, the drive for ever greater cost efficiencies must be balanced with a requirement to be more agile. Supply chains need to be more collaborative so they are able to react more quickly to a changing environment and managers are able to make faster and smarter decisions. For global supply chains that are connected networks of partners across continents and timezones, this also means bringing together multiple stakeholders and quickly orienting them in the same direction to respond.
In the wake of the current pandemic, supply chain executives are increasingly recognising this and turning to digital transformation as part of the solution. Technology platforms that act as control towers for the end-to-end supply chain can play a role in enabling greater agility through improvements in three key areas:
Supply chain managers need accurate real time data across their network at their fingertips. Data typically stored in reports, emails and spreadsheets is time consuming to pull together and becomes outdated quickly. Digital solutions allow problems to be identified immediately, exceptions to be flagged and impacts to be understood more clearly.
Maintaining a single source of truth between supply chain managers and their supply chain partners reduces the chances of acting on incorrect information. Buyers and suppliers that have the same view of potential transport delays can work together to solve the problem much more effectively.
3. Speed of execution
Technology platforms simplify workflows and cut out unnecessary back and forward communications. This means when decisions are taken they can be acted on much more quickly with far less miscommunication between the different partners in the supply chain.
While nobody can predict what the shape of economic recovery will look like or indeed when the next black swan event may occur, it is safe to assume that volatility will remain. Achieving greater supply chain collaboration is something that organisations can prioritise to better navigate the uncertainty. Technology that enables greater visibility, collaboration and speed of execution offers a path towards the solution.
☛ Christos Chamberlain is the UK general manager at Flexport.