1. Increased Automation
The pandemic has accelerated investment in automation solutions to do more to limit human contact, ensure continuity, streamline logistics and increase human efficiency. In fact, some expertsassert that enterprises with a higher degree of automation sawless supply chain disruption during the pandemic. Organizationsare exploring opportunities to automate thousands of functionsand tasks involving sourcing, procurement, order management,inventory, compliance, transportation, shipping and more. Fromsecuring supplier capacity to advance booking of transportationand real-time communication of supply and demand volume, thenext few years should see unprecedented supply chain automation.
2. More Co-Innovation across Organizations
Presented with monumental challenges, the pandemic spurred
3. More Visibility across the Supply Chain
supply chain partners to ask, “How can we work together to make
this happen?” This collaboration meant co-innovating to find new
ways to source, buy, move, store, sell and deliver. This is just the
kind of cross-organizational collaboration it will take to explore
new and more sustainable ways to manage supply chains in the fu-
ture. The pandemic-driven connection of disparate organizations,
systems, workflows and resources in pursuit of a greater goal fore-
shadows what it will take to reach Paris Agreement commitments.
Last year at this time, many were comfortable painting broad-brush strokes regarding the minutiae of vendor stock, the sourcematerials involved in a Tier 3 supplier’s components, or extensivecontingency plans—but things have changed. Post-COVID supplychain stakeholders will demand unprecedented levels of visibility.This means an expectation of comprehensive, real-time supplychain status across complex, global inter-business processes and awhole new set of visibility KPIs.
4. Sourcing Closer to Home
Many enterprises are now looking to diversify their supplierbase and reduce supply chain risk via closer-to-home providers.The high-profile examples made plain by 2020 include things likepharmaceuticals, rare earth minerals and key components used inthe defense industry. Sourcing materials closer to home could alsohelp lower transportation-related carbon emissions—and transportation costs. This shifting demand could help reshape a numberof materials and manufacturing markets worldwide. We have already seen U.S. companies in certain sectors diversify away fromplaces like China in search of greater supply chain resilience.
Both resource constraints and financial pressures mean manymanufacturing sectors are pushing for further waste and cost reduction. Some will continue to pursue lean manufacturing practices such as 5s methodology (6s with the addition of “safety”),Six Sigma and cellular manufacturing. Strong lean inventoryphilosophies did lead to a lack of resiliency in plants in 2020 dueto shortages and this needs to be addressed. Still, the same toolsdesigned to lean up operations by cutting down on safety stockor optimizing logistics usually also reduce environmental impact.The focus areas of lean manufacturing prove this out, seeking toreduce: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and extra-processing. Lean inventoryphilosophies may need to be adjusted based on 2020 learnings.
6. More Efficiency through Tighter Planning
7. Modeling for Optimized Per-
2020 supply chains held a lot of uncertainty. In response, enter-
prises compensated with extreme planning and communication.
We’ve seen companies reinvent how they optimize each and every
inbound and outbound load and strive for enhanced communica-
tion in all logistical matters. These have included authenticated
proof-of-delivery mechanisms, automated shipment confirma-
tions, proactive supply chain alerts and other additions. These tools
could also have transformative impacts on supply chain sustain-
ability. For example, logistics coordination for scheduling pick-
ups can not only reduce trucking wait times and associated fees,
but prevent millions of trucks from idling, providing reduction in
global emissions when implemented at scale.
Software-based simulations have been aterrific tool to navigate an ever-changing fieldof suppliers, carriers, costs, geopolitical factors, inventory, contracts, forwarders, financialmetrics and other dynamics. Through computing advances such as advanced algorithms,artificial intelligence, machine learning, pervasive integration and replication, organizationsare now more efficiently gaming the outcomesof alternative scenarios.
This same modeling technology could beused to monitor supplier sustainability practices and their decisions around sourcing packaging materials, recycling and fleet electrification. Modeling can improve supplier-relateddecision quality and efficiency when it comesto many aspects of supply chain sustainabilityacross all supplier tiers. MH&L
Gary Neights is senior director, product
management, with Elemica (www.elemica.
com), a digital supply network for manu-
Increased automation hasthe potential to help reduce acompany’s environmental impact.
By Gary Neights
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