Technology is revolutionizing the supply chain, and as sourcing and manufacturing becomes more global, supply chain organizations are embracing digital transformation. The ever-expanding scope of supply chain management brings its own challenges though—if you want to digitize your supply chain, where do you start? Asking the right questions and implementing best practices will help you to develop a strong supply chain digitization strategy. Here are some of the areas you’ll need to focus on if you want to transform your supply chain and take advantage of the latest innovations.
The next two years will see the inflection point in how the digitized supply chain drives competitive advantage and growth. A small number of companies (9%), the progressives — that is, companies with the highest levels of supply chain digitization maturity — are already moving ahead of the pack in terms of supply chain digitization and reaping tangible rewards. Others need to catch up or risk falling further behind.
The progress will depend on adopting a unified technology approach. The companies that will continue to achieve the best results are those that actively invest in a comprehensive digital strategy.
Identify and Understand the Specific Challenges You Have in the Supply Chain
Organizations should approach digitization as a way to resolve issues in the supply chain through reducing waste, maximizing efficiency, increasing quality, boosting speed and minimizing costs. According to SupplyChain247, “Companies that integrate digital technologies into their supply chain can quickly improve service levels while cutting costs up to 30%.”
Every supply chain business will have different priorities, and it’s vital to get a deep understanding of your specific problems with the supply chain:
- Identify all the key stakeholders who have an interest in enhancing the supply chain. This will include your internal teams, external contractors, upstream and downstream partners, logistics providers and others.
- Create a common set of quantitative and qualitative questions that you can ask to identify specific supply chain problems, gather relevant data and drill down into the details
- Conduct interviews with stakeholders to identify the specifics of supply chain issues
- Analyze the responses to identify common supply chain issues and possible underlying root causes
- Understand what issues could be resolved through technology and digitization and which are better handled through other means, like contract renegotiation or relationship management
- Filter your responses for digital and technology issues and build them into a document that you can use to identify possible solutions to those supply chain problems
Define Where You Want to Be with Supply Chain Transformation
Understanding your current issues with the supply chain is a vital first step, but you’ll need to combine that with bigger-picture thinking and figure out your ideal future state. For example, do you want to move to a more customer-centric supply chain that focuses on the best outcome for downstream consumers? Could you focus on greater integration between systems to make it fast, easy and secure to transfer supply chain data? How can you drive up value in every part of the supply chain?
- Read case studies and the latest thinking on supply chain transformation
- Understand if there are principles you can apply to digitizing your supply chain
- Establish business appetite for moving towards truly revolutionary solutions
- Develop strong business cases for various types of transformation and how that will position you competitively over the next two to five years
Build these findings into your strategy document, this will result in an approach that takes care of specific issues and looks at the medium-term benefits of supply chain transformation. It’s a necessary foundation for your supply chain development roadmap.
Create a List of the Benefits and Features That You Need as Part of Supply Chain Digitization
Now that you know the issues you need to solve and your supply chain organization’s ideal future state, you can start looking at solutions. Go through each area in your strategy document and establish what type of technology, platform or software you require to implement that initiative. Here are some of the features and areas you might want to consider:
- With the rapid development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can you use these technologies to enhance supply chain modelling or other parts of your business?
- Can using Internet of Things technology enhance the way you track the movement, handling and storage of products?
- Are you considering using blockchain technology for smart contracts or other supply chain operations?
- Would Natural Language Processing make it easier to interact with supply chain partners around the world?
- Do you want to use predictive and prescriptive analytics to enhance the way you manage capacity, demand and stock levels?
- Have you looked into Robotic Process Automation and how it could streamline repetitive supply chain operations?
- Is sharing information and data connectivity a central part of your supply chain transformation?
- How central is the customer experience to your supply chain vision? How can digitizing your supply chain help you deal with increasing consumer demand?
- Do you expect to manage your logistics in house or use a third-party logistics provider, both now and over the medium- to long-term?
Once you have a shopping list of ideal features you can start looking at vendors who are building the digital supply chain solutions you need.
Look for Supply Chain Technology Vendors Who Can Meet Your Needs
You need a forward-looking supply chain vendor who can partner with you. There are hundreds of platforms, technologies, developers and vendors, so you’ll need to make a careful choice:
- Does the vendor offer a relatively complete supply chain solution, or does the technology only solve a handful of specific issues?
- Can the vendor demonstrate a proven track record of working with supply chain organizations?
- Has the vendor worked across different types of supply chain niches? For example, you might need a vendor with experience in high-tech, automotive or consumer products.
- Does the vendor provide extensive consulting, support and training on implementing their solutions and getting your supply chain staff, contractors and partners up-to-speed?
- Will their supply chain technology integrate with other hardware and software with minimal configuration and development time?
- Can you get the right type of reporting and insight from the platform to help you make iterative changes to continually improve supply chain management?
These are all just starting points for digitizing the supply chain
Transforming how you manage the supply chain is a major challenge, but using these best practices can give you a great starting point. When you’re ready to start your supply chain digitization, talk to us.
The Blume Digital Platform is data-driven and connects trading partners in a collaborative supply chain ecosystem to drive value and growth for our customers worldwide. Our cloud-based platform is open and neutral, and its extensible architecture enables continuous innovation to forge the future of the global supply chain.