Here are five such adjustments we would suggest in 2020.
1. Address Cybersecurity
No matter what other changes you might make to your supply chain strategy, chances are you’re relying heavily on digital operations at this point. Anything from production, to driver communications, to in-store inventory management can now happen via automated and/or cloud-based practices. This helps to make operations more efficient, but it also means that your supply chain is potentially vulnerable to cybercrime.
That makes a focus on cybersecurity very important. We covered ‘How to Protect Your Supply Chain From Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities’ in a 2019 post, and clarified the potential problems. As we stated then, cybercriminals are only getting smarter and savvier, and a security breach can ultimately mean a loss of both credibility and revenue. However, a security review, ideally with input from experts, can help you to approach any and all strategic changes in a way that minimizes the risk of such a breach.
2. Invite Feedback
Several of the changes we’re talking about here involve technology, and indeed the supply chain today is far more dependent on advanced tech than it used to be. In this case though, we’re talking more about how to manage teams. With so many variables at play in today’s supply chains, it’s generally advisable to organize an internal review or feedback system. It may include clients, store operators, manufacturers, fleet drivers, or anyone else relevant to the process. But giving these employees and associates a means of reporting on issues they notice, or making suggestions for improvements, can be invaluable. It may help you to recognize some inefficiencies you can then take steps to avoid.
3. Make Use of Smart Sensors
Managing a supply chain today means recognizing just how far smart sensor technology has come. Once, the idea of attaching sensors to fleet vehicles, or tracking devices to inventory items, might have seemed cumbersome. Now, however, the technology has come far enough to make them not only convenient, but vital.
This is largely thanks to advances in circuit boards that have allowed the companies involved to essentially pack more power into smaller and less conventional packages. Altium explains the benefits of flex PCBs as high-powered circuit boards that can be designed to fit intricate or cramped structures. Similarly, there are also PCB designs that are built in dense layers, so as to fit into smaller areas without sacrificing performance. And with these flexible and dense options now in play, companies building IoT-connected trackers are able to produce far more appealing options.
This in turn has enabled massive tracking and data collection possibilities in the modern supply chain. Managers should take advantage of this to outfit inventory, vehicles, and anything else relevant with sensors that can transmit locations and data. This can keep active operations running smoothly and provide information that helps maximize efficiency in the future.
4. Build a Data-Driven Approach
This point ties in closely with the idea of using smart sensors. Basically, the idea is to use this kind of technology to gather and compile data about all aspects of the supply chain. This can mean just about anything: figuring out how long delivery routes take to complete; spotting inefficiencies in driver habits; monitoring equipment for preventative maintenance; and so on.
We should also point out that data can be collected more directly as well. Most notably, this is now occurring at the point of sale, for companies whose supply chains include retail stores. The Balance’s examination of POS systems explained how modern systems can be used to manage inventory, measure the effectiveness of promotions, and collect additional information relating to sales. This can all be factored in to further improve efficiency, and ultimately ensure that inventory is presented in such a way as to generate the most sales.
5. Prioritize Sustainability
Lastly, it’s also wise to work sustainability into your supply chain strategy adjustments. Environmental Leader covered a study just a couple years ago that indicated today’s consumers are in fact willing to pay more for supply chain transparency. Specifically, they want companies to make it apparent that they’re operating in socially and environmentally responsible ways. This is a fairly straightforward point, and makes it clear that today’s supply chain managers should strive to implement, and then showcase responsible and sustainable practices.
Implementing these strategies can be a lot of work, altogether. But in the end, they’ll help to modernize your supply chain, and the business will be better for it.
Written by Rein Clint for onescm.com