6 ways to future-proof your supply chain

6 ways to future-proof your supply chain

COVID changed the world in many ways: From the normalization of home working to growing inequality, troubling trends such as food insecurity, a new type of stress, and the increased awareness of interdependencies (source: Scientific American). One of the most significant impacts on the global population and economy, however, was the awareness of how important, fragile, and risk-prone our supply chains are.

We may be cautiously optimistic about life as we emerge from pandemic trauma, but crises such as pandemics, extreme weather events, shifts in consumer behavior, and increased demand will not diminish with time. More likely, when coupled with labor shortages and infrastructure vulnerabilities, they will only increase.

A year into the crisis, SupplyChain digital conducted a report. Their research showed that 90% of companies expect the disruption of global supply chains caused by the pandemic to have a lasting impact on their business. Subsequent experience has taught us that when one part of the supply chain fails, everyone connected to it suffers.

It’s hardly surprising that 97% of respondents said their network needs more transparency and better visibility when this research was conducted. We always knew supply chains were vulnerable. We just didn’t know how vulnerable they truly were.

But there is hope for the supply chain

Albert Einstein supposedly said, “in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity”. The crisis demonstrated the increased need for digitalization and end-to-end visibility. But it also revealed the importance of establishing digital and partner connectivity. We are stronger when we work together.

The benefits of increased collaboration, visibility, and trackability aren’t just nice to have, they’re critical. When we see more, supplier performance improves, and we gain greater operational efficiencies, cost savings, stronger compliance, and improved transaction accuracy – at least, according to Agile Procurement Insights Research.

But while only an Accenture report revealed that only 4% of supply chain leaders say they are future-ready, those leading the way are the most advanced in terms of the technology they adopt, the talent they employ, and the processes they use.

What can we learn from them? Here are 6 ways to future-proof your supply chain and become a future-ready organization.

  • Adopt technology

SupplyChain digital reminds us that procurement industry leaders use supplier collaboration solutions to automate and speed up transactions with suppliers. 92% use a network for supplier collaboration, and 61% use cloud-based collaboration solutions. An appropriate digital solution can improve agility and visibility, whilst unleashing the potential of previously unknown supply chain data. 

Knowledge is power. Without technology to help us unleash the power of knowledge, we’re running blind.

  • Improve strategic collaboration

86% of all future-ready organizations expect business and technology to collaborate fully by 2023. Unfortunately, just 10% say this collaboration is happening at scale today. (Source: Accenture report). That has to change. And it can. When technology is used to address issues in real-time and help organizations meet customer expectations, supplier, manufacturer and partner collaboration become more natural and more comfortable. Disputes diminish because everyone involved can see their commercial relationships as part of the bigger picture. The natural consequence is that the focus shifts away from self-serving relationships toward mutually-beneficial relationships that serve the customer while improving profitability.

If deals work for both parties, and the customers, everyone wins.

  • Stay agile against risks

Once upon a time, traditional warehousing and many aspects of supply chain functioning were fairly predictable. Unfortunately, predictability was another pandemic victim. Of necessity, agility became the new buzzword. Organizations that were able to adapt, thrived. The less agile suffered. In an article in SHD Logistics, David Thame reminds us that “The old just-in-time approach to light inventory now feels less like lean business sense, and a lot more like a disaster waiting to happen.”

It may seem counter-intuitive to require more data to be more agile, but there’s a reason that 98% of Accenture’s supply chain operations research respondents expect to have data in wide use or at scale by 2023. It’s just a no-brainer. Today, intelligent systems allow us to use data to improve decision-making, without having to wait for weeks or even months to pull information together from spreadsheets and disparate data sources. Tomorrow, data will improve agility even further and make organizations even less risk-prone.

  • Become data-driven

Supply chain leaders need a digital-powered, data-driven operating model. At least, that’s Accenture’s view on it. But how? One way, SHD Logistics suggests, is to collect data from suppliers and distributors in a single solution. This then allows the opportunity to use features like predictive analytics and real-time tracking. The result is more transparent supply chains, more responsive and agile decision-making, and a better customer experience.

  • Have a more localized approach

If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from international supply chain challenges it is that bringing supply closer to demand and producing goods as close to our vital consumers as possible currently makes good business sense. With complex supply chains, it’s often not easy to see where the challenges are until it’s too late. That’s why adaptability and local sourcing must be supported by back-end data. The sooner we can predict challenges, the sooner we can avert them. Better visibility enables successful localization.

  • Make the best deals possible

Finally, one of the most important reasons for distributors, buying groups, and manufacturers who deal extensively with B2B deals and rebates to future-proof their supply chains is to improve profits. According to the Accenture report we quoted earlier, future ready-organizations are nearly three times more profitable. Future-ready organizations that are collaborative and focused on the deal economy: A world in which trading agreements are the mutually-beneficial foundations of partnerships are already leading the way. Are you ready to do the same?

With ongoing disruption in the supply chain, how can better deals and automation help?

From the research presented here, it should be clear that technology will help embed long-term resilience to help anyone in the supply chain weather future disruptions.

As we quoted earlier, while Accenture’s research in 2021 revealed that only 4% of supply chain leaders claimed to be future-ready at the time, 34% expect to be future-ready by 2023.

That’s a big ask. And it’s nearly an impossibility without access to technology that enables strategic collaboration, improves agility, and helps everyone make the best deals possible. Fortunately, distributors, buying groups, and manufacturers who are ready to use technology to take full control of their rebates & B2B deals have an advantage. Rebate management software like Enable can help future-proof their organizations in all of these 6 ways.

If you’re ready to use automation to do better deals and future-proof your supply chain despite ongoing disruptions in the supply chain, get in touch. You can schedule a demo or try our software with a fully-functional free trial, and discover how Enable can help you, your business, your supply chain partners, and, ultimately, your customers.

Elizabeth Lavelle

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