Regardless of sex, as a supply chain manager you need to be the ultimate mother at all times. You need to know everyone’s schedule (and not just your kids’!); ensure that everybody and everything is where they need to be and when; clean up (more often than not) unpleasant messes; plan for every contingency – even the incredibly unlikely; change it all at the drop of a hat; and carry it all out with a sweet smile and a kind word. Oh, and do it for love because gratitude can only be counted on once a year. That’s a whole lot of everything and a monumental, multi-tasking feat. Mums are amazing – and so are supply chain managers!
Yet that is what’s expected (and not just from your boss) because everything going according to plan is a given – at least from the customer’s perspective (business or end user). Consumers have high expectations. We want what we want, when we want it and to suit our budget. If it’s not available, we simply change brands, retailers or suppliers because there are so many options. And who can blame us? We have been conditioned to expect a seamless customer experience, regardless of pandemics and trade wars disrupting the supply chain or equipment breakdowns and low inventory creating unplanned stoppages. To quote the vernacular, “That’s a you problem.”
Nobody notices when you do well because for them, that’s the “norm”. And they have no idea what logistical acrobatics you’ve had to pull nor how many last minute saves you’ve made. Until something goes wrong. Then, suddenly, everyone wants to know who you are and what you’re doing. Lost shipments, late deliveries, theft and missing items are complaint worthy. Sorry “Mum”. And with low profit margins in logistics this can cost you heavily.
Handling toddler tantrums
The COVID-19 pandemic has created some of the most turbulent economic upsets globally. Enforced shut downs, supplier shortages and retail outlet closures have caused their own havoc. Mix this with last-minute border closures, on-going trade wars, the increase in piracy and digital fraud plus the general fear and frustration pervading the atmosphere and you have a recipe for chaos and disaster.
“Fortunately, advanced technology – sensors, machine learning, computer vision, robotics, cloud computing, edge computing, and 5G network infrastructure – has proven to increase supply chain resiliency for manufacturers who adopt it.”
So that will mollify one toddler, but what about your particular supply chain? New last-mile delivery models and the upswing in micro-fulfilment centres are causing localised disruptions in consumer purchasing behaviour. Do you have the ability to compete?
Visibility, flexibility, resilience and innovation
These four key qualities are frequently mentioned in the literature about future developments to improve manufacturing (as part of the supply chain) and supply chain management.
According to Forrester’s 2020 smart manufacturing report, “Behind the scenes, processes designed over years to ossify cost control, efficiency, and predictability were replaced by those that emphasized flexibility and resilience. As they plan for 2021 manufacturers will learn the lessons of 2020, doubling down on technology enabled strategies to deliver flexibility, resilience, and innovation.”
Deloitte cites visibility as “likely to become the most critical capability” for solving forecasting issues and navigating disruption “and digital technologies could be important enablers.” The use of digital twins and digital supply networks (DSN) to increase supply chain resilience were two other trends on the rise.
So how do we achieve this?
Visibility: An end-to-end, real-time view of your supply chain provides the opportunity to make timely and informed decisions about issues as they arise. So you can cancel or re-direct the extra trucks booked for a designated port when a shipping container has been lost or transferred to the wrong destination; you can optimise route planning when heavy traffic or a road accident means potential delays; or you can minimise the bull-whip effect by notifying parties along the chain, if adverse conditions are delaying delivery.
However, as a network of associated entities, a supply chain is highly complex and can generate an enormous amount of data. Legacy technology struggles to process the volume and velocity of this information in a timeframe suited to effective mitigation strategies. Using a technology that mirrors this interconnectivity provides greater insight into how these relationships affect each other and the chain itself. This is easily achievable with a graph database that can handle these highly connected data sets with ease. Graph can integrate all of the feedback from third and fourth party suppliers and distributors, GPS data and other applications into a central hub; then accurately map these relationships to provide real-time analysis of your supply chain.
Visibility is often provided by a “control tower” view, which ideally:
- Covers your entire supply chain process.
- Predicts how exception events affect existing plans.
- Shows customer service and financial implications of exceptions.
- Can run planning scenarios and their impacts, plus disseminate this information to relevant parties.
- Relays alerts at pertinent times – not everything needs to happen in real-time.
- Has intuitive views that are appropriate to your unique business.
- Has predictive capabilities.
- Is a collaborative and flexible platform to accommodate third party users and changes to processes.
But there is no point seeing a disaster if you can’t do anything to mitigate it. So if your current control tower system doesn’t provide this, please read on.
Flexibility: Essentially, this refers to the ability to adapt to circumstances. In this case, we are referring to Machine Learning (ML) and complex event processing that can learn from and interpret historic data, contextualise it and provide recommendations on possible outcomes. This allows you to make on the fly decisions to mitigate disruption and risk, increase efficiency and reduce waste.
Resilience: Descriptive analytics tell you about what happened in the past. Diagnostic analytics explain why they happen. It’s important to learn from history to avoid repeating the same mistakes. However, your capacity to bounce back is significantly improved if you have an idea of what’s to come (predictive analytics) and what actions you can take to effect a better outcome (prescriptive analytics). Prescriptive analytics relies on data mining to find patterns and relationships in large data sets, text analytics to convert unstructured text into analysis ready data and predictive modelling to create and adapt statistical models to forecast outcomes. Whilst this won’t make you infallible, it will give you a heads up on any upcoming chaos and valuable time to prepare.
Innovation: Running planning scenarios is a vital aspect of efficiency and exception event management. By testing out various situations you can assess the viability of your network, where deficiencies lie and how to cut costs. To be truly pro-active, you can simulate worst-case eventualities to implement strategies that can support you in a crisis. A digital twin provides a visual representation of your supply chain that can be manipulated to conceptualise viable solutions, determine how the weakest links impact the network and problem-solve current issues on a granular level.
But that’s not all there is to think about. We believe that there’s another essential quality to successful supply chain management.
Collaboration: Visibility across a supply chain relies on collaboration between all of the parties involved. A key aspect of this is communication, which is, of course, a two-way street: external parties need to share pertinent information and vice versa so that everyone has the insights needed to take appropriate action for their companies. By breaking down communication barriers (technological and otherwise) with external providers and fostering trust through sharing information and honest engagement, you create transparency (and good relationships) throughout your supply chain. For a mum, this is the equivalent of co-parenting and delegating some parental responsibilities to trusted people, like grandparents, whilst supporting your children in becoming autonomous, contributing members of your household.
Locstat LightWeaver®, our unified data analytics platform, can provide all of this and more through our Supply Chain Intelligence solution.
It’s Mother’s Day all year round!
Using next-generation technology, Locstat LightWeaver® can aggregate data from all of your sources into a central data repository, which means no more data siloes impeding the flow of information. This data is stored and graphed, making it available for analysis, processing and visualisation. Our unique integration of complex event processing, graph technology and ML in a big-data ready platform creates a powerful supply chain intelligence solution!
Plus, our human input applications (smart phone and HTML compatible) create numerous channels for ongoing feedback, which often augment system generated data sources. So even third and fourth party providers can immediately update you on their status wherever they are – and a lack of data becomes a thing of the past.
We consult with your subject experts to understand exactly what you need from your system. Are you responsible for the whole supply chain, from raw materials to consumer, or do you handle logistics only? If it’s the latter, do you need to factor in secondary or tertiary suppliers as backups in your chain? At what cost and how does this impact profits? This can all feature in your analytics dashboard so that you can make informed decisions based on demand, order, inventory and supply chain status. A customised solution puts you in charge.
Take dynamic control of your network with real-time KPI monitoring to optimise your entire chain. Using impact and root cause analysis you can determine where inefficiencies are and visualise effective solutions.
Assess overall business performance using contextualised metrics and relevant specifications, instead of generics provided by “off the shelf” products.
As a unified data analytics platform, Locstat LightWeaver® provides a graph powered, agile and affordable supply chain intelligence solution. Experience the visibility, understanding and control to make time-critical insightful decisions, mitigate risk, maximise profit and reduce waste. As a quick to implement, light touch on your existing architecture, you can have your next generation solution now!