End-to-end supply chain visibility has become more and more essential in the past decade, and as technology continues to evolve, it also becomes more achievable.
Now, in light of the global COVID-19 crisis, supply chain visibility is more important than ever before. From transporting essential materials to responding to potential supply chain disruptions, visibility will be a top concern for companies during this global public health crisis and beyond.
Monitoring essentials during transport
In the past, we’ve covered the importance of cargo conditions monitoring for food and pharmaceuticals as a key part of supply chain visibility. This is even more vital now.
Questions about the stability of supply chains for food and medicine have left much of the U.S. on edge, contributing to panic buying. Pain relievers, cough medicine, and cold medicine are flying off the shelves, along with food items like eggs, milk, and pasta. Although experts have emphasized that there’s no need for panic buying, fear of shortages remains.
To keep shelves as well-stocked as possible — and to prevent recalls — perishable products need to be closely monitored during transport, using technology like remote temperature and humidity sensors to catch potential problems ahead of time.
Reacting to disruptions
During these uncertain times, companies need to assess their supply chains and understand them on a deeper level than ever before, mapping out their ecosystem of suppliers and creating contingency plans for as many scenarios as possible.
A main goal for many companies is to be able to predict supply chain disruptions ahead of time and respond to changes quickly. Luckily, due to the U.S.-China trade wars, many organizations were already taking these steps before the pandemic began.
These efforts will need to continue, according to a new report by Deloitte:
“It will be important to get as much visibility as possible to key Tier 2 supplier status, and beyond, which will impact key Tier 1 supplier order fulfillment performance — providing maximum time to work with Tier 1 suppliers on alternative plans.”
In other words, maximum agility is only possible with maximum visibility; understanding the vast supply chain ecosystem — including Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers — is the only way to prevent widespread disruption.
Change is necessary
Experts say that there may be one upside to supply chain disruption: companies will be forced to evolve and make improvements to outdated processes and supply chain models.
According to Deloitte, “a decades-long focus on supply chain optimization to minimize costs, reduce inventories, and drive up asset utilization” has made many companies vulnerable to the kind of disruption the world is seeing with COVID-19.
If there was ever a time to embrace new technologies, this is it. Rather than focusing solely on reducing costs, companies need to invest in AI and automation to aid in visibility efforts that will pay off in the long term and lessen the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain.
For example, AI-enabled digital inventory systems made a significant difference in Wuhan, China in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, allowing merchants to coordinate with suppliers almost immediately after the city’s lockdown order went into effect.
The global COVID-19 pandemic will push companies to learn more about their supply chains, embrace new technology, and put more emphasis on visibility.
While the circumstances surrounding these changes are tragic, this shift in how organizations approach their supply chain optimization will make for a more agile, better prepared global supply chain.
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