Finance

14 Ways Companies Can Minimize Supply Chain Disruptions Using Technology

Global supply chain issues are making headlines these days. Consumers were advised to begin their holiday shopping early because of inventory shortages and shipping delays, and more and more shoppers are reporting minimally filled or even bare shelves in retail stores. Businesses are feeling the pain of supply chain disruptions as well, facing everything from difficulty obtaining needed supplies to being unable to fulfill customer orders as quickly as they have in the past.

While there are many factors contributing to supply chain disruptions that are beyond a company’s control, businesses are not wholly powerless. With the right technology tools, companies can better stock up on popular products ahead of demand, predict slowdowns and even manufacture needed parts in-house. Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council share ways companies can leverage technology to minimize supply chain disruptions for themselves and the customers they serve.

1. Develop Models To Anticipate Disruptions And Plan Recovery

The issue is not supply chain disruptions in themselves; the issue is that we have optimized supply chains to the point where even small disruptions can have disproportionately big impacts. We need to establish resilience in the face of increasing disruptions. Thus, the use of models that anticipate disruptions and the use of technology to understand impacts and plan recovery need to become routine. - Usama Fayyad, Institute for Experiential AI at The Roux, Northeastern University

2. Examine First-Party Retail Data

By leveraging their first-party data, retailers would be well-equipped to predict demand and rationalize assortments. This way, the focus will be shifted to the products that really make a difference for customers. - Beni Basel

3. Share Your Retail Data With Your Suppliers

During the pandemic, I’ve seen that our retail customers who share data with their suppliers outperform their rivals. By sharing their SKU-level, location-based inventory data, retailers effectively empower their suppliers to ship the right products to the right stores at the right time. The result is a win-win: Retailers have stocked shelves and suppliers maximize their sales. - Dave Mariani, AtScale

4. Connect Business Functions With Real-Time Updates

Businesses need interconnected software solutions that provide real-time updates from the office to the warehouse to the vendor supply chain in order to manage and track materials and minimize bottlenecks. These solutions help businesses deliver on time and on budget, as they provide the visibility to make quick decisions that align with today’s ever-volatile business conditions. - Mark Schwartz, Trimble

5. Bake Supply Chain Resilience Into Product Design

Rather than trying to minimize supply chain disruption late in the game, companies should bake in resilience at the point of product design. They can do that by using available market intelligence to understand where upstream constraints exist. That way, businesses can make the most informed decisions on which suppliers and components to use to meet their needs and limit their supply chain risk. - Steve Flagg, Supplyframe

6. Provide End-To-End Visibility Via A Supply Chain Control Tower

A vital strategy is a supply chain control tower that provides end-to-end visibility powered by AI and machine learning. This allows companies to respond proactively to future disruptions using predictive, autonomous capabilities. Having this visibility ensures the right resources—inventory, people and equipment—are available at the right place and at the right time, and supply meets demand. - Çağlayan Arkan, Microsoft Corporation

7. Integrate An IoT Strategy With Manufacturing And Logistics

An Internet of Things strategy that integrates with your manufacturing and logistics functions can provide powerful new levels of real-time visibility into where a product is in your outbound supply chain. With end-to-end visibility, inventory can be better routed in real time to align with demand signals. - Brady Brim-DeForest, Theorem

8. Tap Into The Services Of E-Commerce Marketplaces

Companies should use e-commerce marketplaces, which create transparency by offering one place for all component purchases. As purchasers look outside of their traditional sourcing methods, they’ll find that marketplaces are the future of the supply chain not only due to their efficiency but because some of them also offer tools to manage the request for quote process and the bill of materials. - Jens Gamperl, Sourceability

9. Conduct A Supply Chain Cybersecurity Audit

A data breach within the supply chain right now would further disrupt an already delicate situation. We’ve seen a rise in supply chain weak spots due to digital supply chain infrastructure built on open-source projects. Organizations would be wise right now to implement a supply chain security audit and penetration testing to identify any vulnerabilities and address them immediately. - Ameesh Divatia, Baffle, Inc.

10. Invest In Prediction Analytics

The supply chain problem is a data problem. In an increasingly digital commercial world, it’s possible to accurately model consumption and plan appropriately for production and transport. Businesses should start collecting all their operations data and invest in prediction analytics. Since most of the operations data is sensitive, care must be taken to keep it secure and encrypted. - Ambuj Kumar, Fortanix

11. Keep Customers Informed About Disruptions

Smart business leaders should incorporate AI into every customer conversation. Sending personalized communication can help update the customer about disruptions that pertain to their orders. Doing so is simple—the technology exists today. Innovative businesses are using such technology to keep the customer informed and satisfied in today’s unstable world. - Mike Myer, Quiq Inc.

12. Plan For Disruptions Using System-Based Simulation Engines

System-based simulation engines to anticipate, handle and plan for extreme, disruptive scenarios will prove a key advantage in minimizing supply chain risks. Surpassing the limitations of conventional solutions, such advanced engines will be critical for real-time planning capabilities, improved data quality and better visibility, helping businesses pivot in the face of prolonged crises. - Sayandeb Banerjee, TheMathCompany

13. Provide Faster Turnaround Using 3D Printing

3D printing allows firms to localize the production of goods closer to customers, allowing for faster turnaround, reduced transportation costs and greater personalization. 3D printing product parts allows you to maintain lower inventory levels, while 3D printing of spare parts allows you to cut costs and delivery times. Including 3D printing in your service mix can also create new revenue streams. - Adi Ekshtain, Amaryllis Payment Solutions

14. Leverage Artificial Intelligence To Analyze Data Sets

More and more companies are leveraging AI to analyze data sets, learn more about customer behavior and better predict future demand. By improving their forecasting ability, companies can streamline their supply chains while saving valuable time and resources. Combating the volatility of supply chains with better short-term decision making can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. - Jason Jantz, ReadyMode

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