Consumers felt its disruptive impact when borders closed and countries were locked down. These disruptions may have inconvenienced the world’s population, but they had significant repercussions for the global economy. In this article, we’ll discuss more on what you should know about digital supply chain.
- In 2020, the US and EU suffered an estimated $4T total revenue loss due to continuous supply chain disruptions.
- The US experienced a 15% overnight reduction in raw material output:
- Ford Motor Company’s profits are predicted to decline by $1B to $2.5B. GM’s profits are predicted to decline by $2B because of a chip shortage.
The rapid pace at which these challenges occurred underscores the need for supply chains to become more nimble, transparent, as well as elastic. Digitizing the supply chain can ensure organizations have the resiliency to adapt and survive. Without technology, companies will continue to struggle. They need the operational flexibility that only technology can provide:
What is the Digital Supply Chain?
Supply chains are a network of suppliers that facilitate handling the flow of a good or service. Beginning with raw materials through to delivery to the end-user. A digital supply chain uses technology to improve that process. With technology, organizations can:
- Have end-to-end visibility to monitor operations and to share data in real-time.
- Gain actionable insights through data analytics.
- Improve operations and customer experience through machine learning.
It’s technical capabilities such as these that define a digital supply chain.
Why is the Digital Supply Chain Important?
Natural disasters have disrupted the supply chain for decades; however, few organizations took those warnings to heart. That’s why so many companies were left adrift when global supply chains were disrupted in 2020. Because they had not analyzed their potential risks, many businesses found themselves without a backup plan for survival.
A Harvard Business Review report found the further along companies were in digitizing their supply chain, the better they were at adapting to the rapid changes of 2020. The more mature companies knew where their vulnerabilities were and addressed those first. They then adjusted their operations to address trade restrictions and closed borders. With the visibility that technology provided, these organizations were able to pivot quickly to meet their customers’ expectations.
Recent research found that 40% were unable to cope with the supply chain crisis of 2020. Almost 80% of the surveyed companies said they had accelerated their digital supply chain strategies. And 50% were planning to revisit their risk management strategies in the next two years. Over 40% have already implemented automation processes to manage risk. For organizations to survive, they need to deploy technology throughout their supply chain:
What Technologies are Available?
Technology advances have made it possible for companies to integrate their suppliers for a more comprehensive look at their supply chain. They have used machine learning to improve customer service. Cloud services and 5G networks have extended technology’s reach. The possibilities are unlimited; however, the following examples are ways that technology can strengthen the supply chain.
Robotic Processing Automation (RPA):
RPA solutions have been deployed along the supply chain for years, but often in a haphazard approach. RPA has been used because it operates 24/7 without breaks for faster processing times and eliminates the potential for error. However, it can do much more.
For example, eCommerce orders spiked during 2020, increasing the number of SKUs per warehouse: With the volume of outbound orders increasing and inventory decreasing, RPA solutions improved picking processes and ensured a reliable, real-time inventory assessment. The technology also helped maintain the health restrictions that many warehouses were under.
Blockchain provides a distributed record of digital transactions that cannot be changed without consensus from all parties. In a supply chain, changes seem continuous. Whether it is an increase in production or an invoicing change, keeping up with the details can become overwhelming. With blockchain technology, invoicing could be digitized without a loss of security.
For example, raw materials are delivered to a warehouse, where the receiving party’s signature indicates acceptance. That signature could trigger a process that enables immediate payment by combining blockchain with a digital supply chain billing solution. The transfer of funds would not occur until all links in the chain agree.
Internet of Things:
For most organizations, 2020 saw an increase in the number of endpoints on their network. These endpoints or IoT devices collected data that could not be shared. Deploying intelligent devices that can communicate through APIs allows organizations to use the data for better decision-making:
Placing sensors on shipping containers that report environmental conditions in real-time can alert staff to changes that could damage the container’s contents. Preemptive alerts enable companies to address the potential risk before damage is done. With IoT devices, companies can minimize the risk of losing shipments because of adverse environmental conditions.
Benefits of Digital Supply Chain
Although the supply chain ecosystem has changed, the consumers’ expectations have not. They still expect to get what they want, when they want it. For now, they may be willing to tolerate delays, but in the next normal, they will not want to wait. Efficient, integrated manufacturing and distribution networks are vital as they allow supply chains to be more reliable and adaptable. Companies have to be capable of monitoring their networks, moving goods and services quickly and affordably. They must respond to changing market conditions immediately. Companies can only ensure that their products are delivered on time by deploying technologies that minimize risk:
Automation can reduce human contact and enable a contactless supply chain with zero touches from order to delivery. Advanced technologies can offer more reliable and resilient operations with less downtime and disruption. In 2021, there will be greater adoption of robotic technologies to adapt to changing demands, drive growth, and increase efficiencies and control of the supply chain to avoid future bottlenecks:
Supply chain digital transformation is proven to drive growth, mitigate risk, and optimize costs. However, it requires strong alignment between business and supply chain strategy to succeed.
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