Business continuity demands a supply chain with end-to-end visibility

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For many enterprises, their siloed, traditional Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems are proving to be their Achilles’ heel when trying to operate in unprecedented circumstances, preventing business continuity and resilience. Consider this in the context of Ash Noah’s five steps to achieve business continuity during pandemics, which delves into steps such as: conducting a business impact analysis on an enterprise’s various stakeholders, modelling scenarios and developing an action plan. What becomes immediately apparent is that business continuity plans will not be effective if there are gaps in information. If you cannot measure priority processes like SCM effectively, you cannot leverage data to rapidly respond to changing risk, and stay ahead of challenges.

With massively disrupted supply chains, the current global climate is forcing many organisations to wake up to the fact that SCM is as data-driven as any business function. Digital migration – taking SCM to the cloud – helps enterprises achieve end-to-end visibility of their supply chain, from which crucial knowledge is derived. The shift also helps to ensure greater operational flexibility and productivity, the pillars of futureproof business. This is because cloud platforms are easier to integrate with other cutting-edge technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and blockchain.

The greatest mistake an enterprise can make is to have a “do nothing” attitude, hoping such disruption will never happen again. These companies will be taking a highly risky gamble. At the same time, there will be firms that heed the lessons of this crisis and make investments in mapping their supply networks so they do not have to operate blind when the next crisis strikes, and rewrite their contracts so they can quickly figure out solutions when disruptions occur. These companies will be the winners in the long term.

The new world of work comes with multiple risks to mitigate. For organisations in the SADC region, there is an urgent need to make up for lost revenue due to disruption to the global trade network and its impact on the region. The World Bank predicts that economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will be -5.1% in 2020, compared to 2.4% in 2019. Even with expected rebounds of 4%+ in 2021, there is zero room for unnecessary expenditure and inefficiencies in the supply chain.

The future of business also looks to be one of far greater accountability. Customers, extra cautious with their spending in the foreseeable future, are watching the behaviour of companies carefully. They will be quick to take their sales elsewhere in the case of under-delivery or poor reputation.

While this is an obvious concern for retailers, all organisations are under the microscope. A clear, real-time picture of your entire supply chain through cloud-based solutions has many risk-managing benefits. For example, working capital can be improved through enhanced efficiencies in inventory management, vetting suppliers, as well as ensuring regulatory compliance.
Another emerging technology that has advantages for SCM in the rapidly changing future is blockchain. Underpinning solutions like Oracle Track and Trace, blockchain is establishing new ways to increase trust in diverse ecosystems and increase the speed, security and efficiency of a wide range of business processes, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Experience (CX).

Using public healthcare as an example, a blockchain-powered SCM application can streamline the delivery of medical supplies from a government warehouse to hospitals that urgently need it. A real-time, transparent view of the transaction flow, combined with automated approvals, holds partners involved in the process accountable, ticks governance boxes and speeds up delivery.

In addition to end-to-end traceability through the supply chain, next-generation systems also help to simplify root-cause analysis, with organisations swiftly gaining intelligence to bolster performance. Underpinning this capability is business intelligence built into a Gen 2 cloud platform, which automatically analyses data generated by sensors in the workplace and makes recommendations without the need for manual processing.

In this data-centric era of business, enterprises cannot afford blind spots. Many lessons are being learned at this time, and one of the greatest is the need to treat SCM digitisation with the priority once reserved for ERP systems. An insightful, connected, and transparent supply chain is a powerful asset in achieving business continuity.

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