3 Basics in a Strong Digital Foundation for Supply Chains

3 Basics in a Strong Digital Foundation for Supply Chains

Mardin Crisby

Mardin Crisby,

In times of uncertainty, organizations need a holistic supply chain strategy combined with a strong digital foundation. This approach helps to foresee and handle potential disruptions to demands and supplies in a more structured, effective manner.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic crises, something that is hitting hard at supply chains stretching across the globe. While we never can be sure from where the next disruption is going to come, with a strong digital foundation, consumer goods and retail organizations can surely be more prepared when a surge hits. 

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A strong digital foundation equips an organization with the capabilities to embrace a product-centric and digital-native state, and to be forewarned and forearmed for potential disruptions in the future. This means focusing on three business basics:

1. People. Make sure to educate your employees, partners and customers on the challenges and opportunities in this new supply chain era. System thinking will allow supply chain leaders to zoom out and plan for disruption rather than making one-off operational decisions with each crisis. Instituting a learning culture that feeds back into the intelligent supply chain is a top priority for businesses across the value chain.

2. Processes. In a VUCA world (today’s supply chains are increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous = VUCA) supply chain processes should be agile and disruption-ready. With AI and ML, digital supply chains can take a fresh look into the process of decision-making. Organizations need to move from command and control to exception handling and management behavior. While designing new business processes, collaboration across the supply chain should be in focus to enhance disruption readiness.

3. Platforms & tools. Digital platforms and tools (e.g., Blue Yonder, IBM Sterling, Oracle Supply Chain, etc.) are central to delivering advanced supply chain planning capabilities. These tools help create a digital foundation and promote collaboration in the supply chain. Many supply chain vendors are investing in platforms that are self-learning and have the ability to manage complex networks. For example, IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite, is using Watson AI, which can integrate with third-party data sources including social media and news feeds. This provides the ability to interpret social signals and learn from the recommendations provided.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to balance efficiency and resilience. Supply chains that factor in disruptions before they strike and inform workaround strategies in real-time outperform supply chains that were created exclusively for operational efficiency. As such, they enable organizations to contend with ongoing uncertainties such as those surfaced by supply chain disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus and can help enable a more sustainable business operation moving forward.

Please also read about Cognizant’s general advice on copying with the pandemic from both a health and a business perspective.

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