Keeping your head above water

Körber Supply Chain CEO Chad Collins says today’s supply chains are mission-critical. He explains why.

Today’s supply chains are increasingly complex. Some sources of this complexity are familiar: handling more products; partnering with more suppliers; fulfilling through more channels; meeting customer expectations for choice, convenience, speed, and price to name a few. Then there are unexpected disruptions challenging supply chains across the globe and changing how we think about crisis mitigation and risk avoidance.

These complexities exist regardless of region, industry, or business size. Nonetheless, businesses need to serve their customers under these circumstances — making supply chain management mission-critical to the majority of organisations moving goods. There are many moving pieces to consider, and some organisations have more resiliency than others. This includes technology, system flexibility, agile connectivity and integrations to a growing number of solutions, and transparency up to the last mile.

So how do we keep our heads above water when complexities arise? How do we stay ahead of the ever-changing nature of supply chain? To reduce supply disruption and risk, consider the following:

A flexible technology platform is key. The ability to make changes quickly can make all the difference, especially when the unexpected becomes a reality. Voice and Autonomous Mobile Robotics (AMR), for example, can provide solutions for scaling to quickly adapt to arising needs. But you need infrastructure built for pivoting to add these systems without disrupting operations and further complicating difficult situations. Voice technology, in particular, is a proven solution that can be used for more than 24 different processes in the warehouse alone – leading to improvements in productivity, accuracy, training time, and employee satisfaction. On the software side of things, cloud infrastructures provide the system scalability and managed services that offer vital resources when they’re needed most.

Many warehouses struggle with labour challenges, be it shortages during peak periods or unexpected occurrences like COIVID-19. Supply chains need to be prepared to do more with fewer hands. To overcome these challenges, automation technologies can augment the workforce. Layer pickers, for example, can manage up to 98% of all retail products. By integrating these systems into the WMS and other critical logistics systems, automation can be a long-term solution whether you’re a SMB or a large, global organisation.

Technology is critical not only for day-to-day operations but also for demand planning and forecasting. We live in a data-driven world, but without insight that puts data in motion, it can be difficult to use all the data generated by your operations in a meaningful way. Using correct data sets and forecasting tools will be crucial to companies as they navigate the current market environment and continue to make strategic decisions.

System integration is not as easy as it sounds. Sure, some technologies play nice together. But connectivity goes beyond the tech stack. Customers, partners, and suppliers all need full visibility of shipments and material flow. The good thing is that this builds trust between all parties (not to mention customer loyalty). Consistent visibility from sourcing to production to retail also increases accountability at every link of the supply chain. This helps with manufacturing and demand planning.

Connectivity also gives customers critical information during crises. Maybe you won’t be able to come through with some items as quickly as before. But, at least you can let your customers know in a timely fashion. This helps them manage the circumstances and preserves your relationship.

We are all heads down trying to move the needle in our roles within this challenging and incredible industry. But sometimes we need to take a step back and look past our daily numbers and ask some important questions: What happens to my partners and customers if my supply chain breaks down? Are our operations tough enough to serve our communities and be there through thick and thin?

Trust is the ultimate differentiator. Thinking about supply chain resiliency through the eyes of your customers is a great reminder of the importance of your services. Fortunately, we have the technologies to plan ahead and be a rock within our respective communities when we’re needed most. That is a path to unbreakable relationships and long-term success.

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