Three supply chain challenges and how to overcome them

By Michael Womack
The modern supply chain is becoming more complex by the day. Businesses continue to struggle with keeping their supply chain under control but hidden ri...

The modern supply chain is becoming more complex by the day. Businesses continue to struggle with keeping their supply chain under control but hidden risks still pose a significant threat to the industry. Even with all the new technologies making their way to the industry, businesses must be aware of these hidden risks and understand how to react appropriately.

Businesses of all kinds must keep supply chain visibility, cyber risk and natural disasters in mind at all times. All of these factors or even just one could have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. In this current edition of the ‘Challenges and Solutions’ series, we will take a close look at the most troublesome issues in the supply chain and how businesses can avoid or plan for these risks.

New technology

Advancing technology is making its way into the supply chain, forcing businesses to constantly change systems. New services that provide an “Uber-Like” freight experience require supply chain managers to constantly hone their talents and adapt to these kind of digital disruptions. Not only with the Internet of Things be transforming the supply chain end to end, the way people utilize technology to create new processes will need to be monitored. The challenge is keeping supply chain managers and procurement professionals up-to-date and trained with all these new advancements.

Finding a solution can be challenging at first. It will take some time for a business to discover the right process that works for them. There is no one answer fits all, rather a unique, business specific training program must be developed. Some solutions may include putting together a team in charge of locating the latest supply chain innovations and coming up with a plan to train the rest of the staff. Others could be outsourced training programs funded by the organization whose employees will be taking part. Continuous training will be vital in order to remain effective in this transforming industry.

Cyber risks

A common trend in nearly every industry is digitization. From manufacturing to the Supply Chain, digital technologies continue to transform how business is conducted. Innovative new systems are creating solutions to problems that have always plagued the industry. However, as the supply chain becomes more connected, risks begin to present themselves. The challenge is ensuring the supply chain remains resistant to cyber-attacks.

The solution would be to ensure all new systems are properly secured. Largely, this is an inherent issue with new connected systems as cyber security is often an afterthought. There are however ways for a supply chain to improve their resistance to these cyber criminals. Threats can come from everywhere, an email, an attachment or even public Wi-Fi. It will be incredibly important to understand what kind of cyber risks are out there in order to keep precious data private. Education and staff awareness will be essential in protecting a supply chain’s operations and private data.

Weather / natural disasters

Something not even the most experienced or data fuelled supply chain manager can foresee is a sudden change in weather or natural disaster. These events can have a direct impact on the infrastructure necessary for transporting freight. These hidden risks can come into play unexpectedly and are known for their unforgiving nature. Even though they are notoriously unpredictable, having a plan in place can take the pressure off the supply chain and avoid too many disruptions.  The challenge is coming up with a disaster plan which all links throughout the supply chain can depend on and expect to follow if an issue were to arise. .

The solution will rely on close communication and collaboration between all the parties throughout a supply network. Understanding what kind of weather is most likely to impact a specific supply chain should also be taken into consideration. With this knowledge, businesses can develop a plan where they can react to inclement weather or natural disasters seamlessly. If each link in a supply chain is notified and kept up-to-date on how to react to a disaster, it can help the supply network bounce back much more quickly.

The supply chain continues to become more complex by the day. Workforce development, cyber threats and uncontrollable factors all come into play. With proper training and planning, agility can be improved. Understanding these three hidden risks can help supply chain managers prepare for future disruptions and develop a proactive plan to address them, before they can impact business.

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