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For reasons we’re all too familiar with, the past two years have proven immensely challenging for the global supply chain. Take increased customer demand for goods and compound it with an aging infrastructure, truck driver and labor shortages, inventory challenges, global political tensions and a pandemic. These elements come together to create the perfect storm of disruption.
Because of the intricacy of the supply chain and the number of parts involved in keeping things moving, mitigating looming crises can be challenging. And while you can’t prevent everything—like an unforeseen pandemic—there are steps we can take as an industry to place our businesses on more solid ground and support overarching supply chain resilience.
Adopt smarter operations.
In an industry historically underserved by technology, the future of the supply chain is undoubtedly marked by innovation and industry collaboration. The ecosystem is ripe for change, eager to create new efficiencies, uphold safety demands and increase profitability. One way business leaders can future-proof and drive their operations forward is to adopt smarter, technology-backed processes.
This means digitizing where you can. Take the daily payments process, for example. Traditionally, businesses in the warehouse, trucking and logistics industries have relied on tedious payment processes like cash and fleet checks that leave room for human error and fraud. By leveraging technology that digitizes payment processes, businesses in this space benefit from faster, simpler fee collection and are better suited to withstand emergencies.
Hand-in-hand with digitization, the next way business leaders can help future-proof the supply chain is to support critical infrastructure upgrades. Supply chain infrastructure includes everything from the buildings and equipment to the IT required to operate a supply chain. It’s also the single biggest factor in determining cost and service outcomes. When consumer demand skyrockets and is overlaid on aging infrastructure and fixed driver and asset capacity, modernization is crucial. The need for infrastructure investment has garnered attention at the Federal Government level, and there are steps individual business leaders can take to support the effort.
The best place business leaders can start is by evaluating the existing infrastructure. Where are there inefficiencies? What are the most impactful changes you can make within the current budget? Where would it be cost-effective to make updates? Where can you engage your IT department, increase visibility and automate? After completing an audit of the current infrastructure, you can craft an effective project plan.
Companies are starting to think about their supply chains differently. Notably, they’re thinking through a lens of agility, adaptability and optionality, all of which are critical to preventing the supply chain disruptions we’ve grown accustomed to throughout the pandemic. And this is a broadly shared desire, with 93% of companies recently surveyed by McKinsey indicating they intend to make their supply chains more flexible and agile. To meet the demands of today’s supply chain ecosystem, businesses need to be able to quickly detect, respond to and recover from disruptions quickly. This flexibility comes in two forms: in process and in mindset.
Companies need to look at their processes through a new lens and modify them to resolve challenges and prevent similar disruptions from happening in the future. To boost resiliency, flexibility, and avoid blockage in the supply chain, industry leaders need to find creative ways to address transport, warehousing and resource shortages. Technology and automation can increase efficiency and allow for the creation of new business models.
Lastly, business leaders need to adopt a flexible mindset. We’re living through a time in history unlike any other, with its own set of unique challenges. Be open to new ideas and new ways of operating. Understand that while we’re facing a supply chain crisis, the disruptions we’re experiencing are relatively minor when you consider the broader impact of a global health crisis and the lives that have irreparably changed.
Momentum for change.
We can anticipate progress as we look beyond today’s supply chain crisis. These last two years have been critical for supply chain leaders, and many are building upon the momentum they gained during the pandemic, propelled forward by decisive action to adapt and modernize. And while these tactics aren’t the only way to future-proof the supply chain, they can be effective tools to mitigate disruption in the future.