Future of Supply Chain and Information Streams

by Anup Sohanta

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted businesses worldwide by shutting office doors, closing sales floors, and stopping production in plants. As countries closed their borders and went into lockdowns, global supply chains took a massive hit, as components and materials couldn’t be shipped to manufacturing facilities. 

In the midst of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions led to a decrease in manufacturing and an increase in overhead costs, as manufacturers had to pay a premium for goods and components. Every cloud has a silver lining, and the pandemic exposed supply chain and information management risks.

In this article, you’ll learn how the pandemic has revealed supply chain weaknesses and how critical business data can be integrated into a single source of truth to streamline supply chain management. 

Which Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Has the Pandemic Exposed

Prior to the pandemic, managing a successful supply chain consisted of communicating with key suppliers, monitoring purchasing costs and occasionally resolving minor delays.

A crucial vulnerability that the pandemic exposed is the reliability of suppliers and the volatile economic environment caused by the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, a supplier may go bankrupt, increase their prices due to a recession, or work stoppage means they’re manufacturing at a reduced capacity.

For enterprises recovering after the pandemic, the impact of having reduced inventories and a lack of materials to manufacture goods is devastating. Cash reserves to ride out the pandemic can only go so far, it’s now more important than ever to evaluate supply chain vulnerabilities to build a resilient supply chain management system. 

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Supply Chain Management on Paper

Paper has been used for hundreds of years and, it’s still being used to make notes, deliver messages and store important business information. In this modern era, paper documents are bad for business as they can be misinterpreted, lost during a disaster and contain errors. 

There are many disadvantages to a paper-based supply chain network, let’s take a look at the drawbacks of paper documents and how they affect your supply chain. 

Lack of Visibility

A paper supply chain management model provides limited visibility to any of the organizations within the network. The pandemic highlighted the importance of information flow, as offices were closed, employees worked from home and couldn’t easily share data stored on an analog system. With paper, a supplier or vendor is unable to receive real-time data on pickups, delivery times and the production of a product. 

Real-time Decision Making 

Every minute counts in a fast-paced organization, and that’s why it’s important to have real-time information at your fingertips to make decisions. At a manufacturing plant, there can be delays, and a paper system doesn’t allow you to notify other areas of your organization or suppliers in real-time about evolving developments on the floor. 

Increased Errors

With a paper system, there is also an increased likelihood of errors and lost documents. It’s important to note that documents may even be unreadable by everyone within the organization, which can cause delays in production, and accounting and can even lead to the procurement of the wrong parts. 

Social Responsibility

After the pandemic, companies are placing more value on health and the impact on the environment. To adhere to corporate social responsibility, it’s important to promote green policies and adhere to reducing your company’s carbon footprint. 

Supply Chain Optimization

The pandemic acted as a catalyst, forcing companies to see vulnerabilities within the current supply chain model. Supply chain optimization can help to reduce costs and inventories, alongside providing greater flexibility to organizations when it comes to a crisis and global shocks. 

At the core of supply chain optimization is how data is collected, processed and distributed within a supply chain network. Emerging supply chain technologies such as automation, the Internet of Things, machine learning and AI can transform a linear supply chain model into a digital supply network (DSN). In a DSN, siloed data is broken down and the organization is given more end-to-end visibility of its supply network.      

Streamlined supply chains are imperative to an organization’s success, especially when it comes to electronics or pharmaceuticals, where products are in high demand. By leveraging digital technology to collect and distribute supply chain data, a company is able to successfully meet future supply chain disruption challenges.  

How to Make Your Supply Chain More Resilient to Shocks

It’s essential to make your supply more resilient to any future challenges, disruptions and shocks. Data is crucial to mapping out strategies to combat any future shocks, alongside managing your supply chain to keep your business running during good times and the bad. 

Here are some supply chain resilience practices to consider: 

Diversifying Suppliers

One major weakness highlighted during the pandemic is the sourcing of supplies from countries around the world. As a result of the pandemic, global manufacturing came to a grinding halt in multiple key countries, which had a detrimental impact on businesses that procure raw materials and components and products.

To combat the remnants of the pandemic and to plan for the future, organizations need to diversify their vendors. The conventional supply chain model needs to evolve so that companies source from other Tier 1 (direct) and Tier 2 (secondary) suppliers around the world.

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Automating Your Supply Chain

Information streams are the lifeblood of a supply chain and as previously mentioned, paper is obsolete and should be transitioned to a digital system. Workflow automation helps to retrieve data from all of the systems used within your network and disperse that data as and when it’s needed across your organization and supply chain partners. 

Real-time data across your supply chain network allows you not only to gain greater end-to-end visibility within the supply chain but also access to real-time reporting. Advanced analytics for real-time reporting enables your company to measure key performance indicators and also plan for instances where there could be stalled production lines or delays with deliveries. 

It’s important to track driver workflows, to help you better understand mileage, dwell time and truck inspections, through digital automation accurate reports can be created carriers and shippers receive products and are paid on time. 

Secondly, the pandemic highlighted just how essential it is to switch to an electronic bill of lading, as it contains pertinent data about the shipper, carrier and commodity of a delivery. Digitizing and automating the bill of lading leads to streamlining operations, reducing errors and creating more transparency within the organization so information can be retrieved easily. 

The Future of Supply Chains

The evolution of supply chain management relies upon adopting new practices and incorporating digital processes. Analog and legacy supply chain models don’t provide enough end-to-end visibility for companies, which leads to siloed data, miscommunication and disruptions if disasters occur. 

Implementing a digital system to streamline data management can help to overcome the pandemic’s challenges and help you prepare for future uncertainties.

Speak with an expert at SEAL Systems to learn how we can improve your manufacturing process to help you cut costs. 

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