In the past, organizations relied heavily on the shared knowledge of a handful of people to plan and manage supply chain processes. Supply Chain Management consisted solely on phone calls, calculators, and paper spreadsheets to ensure products and materials came in at the right time and in the right quantities.
Powerful computers and enterprise level software has made Supply Chain Management more accurate and increasingly capable of handling large amounts of data. Yet some organizations still rely on pencil and paper methods, as well as spreadsheet calculations, allowing planning to remain a broadly human endeavor.
Digitizing for Disruptions
Flash forward to today, there are hybrid supply chain management systems where data inputs are augmented by automation, giving way to agile, fully digital supply chains. These systems can deliver more accurate analysis, identify deeper trends, and do so at speeds that would not be possible by human decision-making alone.
While missed shipments, equipment breakdowns, and other issues may be reoccurring standard disruptions, trade and tariff wars, international events, and pandemics, such as COVID-19, are wreaking havoc like never before. As a result, this combination of normal and new disruptions now makes digitization of supply chain management a critical mission, as no organization can manage them with humans alone.
Benefits of Digital Supply Chains
As all organizations are struggling to find their new normal, the focus in supply chain management has shifted toward faster interactive cycles, more accurate forecasting, and robust what-if scenario planning to develop contingency plans. As the digitization of the supply chain becomes more critical, the advantages offer a way to overcome disruptions in real-time.
- Forward-looking capability: A digital supply chain allows organizations to become more forward-looking. A backward-focused historical approach is now augmented by real-time analytics that empowers much greater forecast accuracy. This enables organizations to have a deeper understanding of what might happen based on all variables and not just historical data.
- Flexibility: As seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, when events in the supply chain process are happening faster and with more severity, flexibility through digitized networks becomes increasingly vital. The old process of quarterly or yearly planning now requires adjusting in real-time and at a pace humans cannot keep up with. Through digitization, planning moves away from being period-driven and becomes a continuous process. This allows for changes and adjustments to be automated to smooth the disruption.
- Better Accuracy: The software that drives digitized supply chains requires data that is not siloed to create transparency across the network. This helps eliminate redundancy, reduce errors, and assist supply chain planners to operate with a single, consistent set of data.
- Lean Efficiency: Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to rely on work-from-home teams. In the past, this structure would have created its own disruption. Digitized supply chains offer the opportunity to automate functions, making at-home teams just as strong as in-house teams. And for organizations who have reduced staffing levels during the pandemic, digitization enhances the effectiveness through automation, transparency, and analytical capability.
- Data-Driven Planning: the combination of advanced analytics, standardized data, and real-time planning allows for the visualization of data at a new level. When planners can visualize the data and are confident in its accuracy, applying it to create solutions becomes easier.
Attempting to overcome today’s disruptions on an already strained supply chain is not easy. But with a digitized supply chain and using cloud-based software, such as Vanguard Predictive Planning™, you can surpass competitors with a data-driven, transparent planning process that takes advantage of all the benefits of a digital supply chain.