The UK’s largest supply chain resilience experiment so far

Coronavirus and the rapidly approaching Brexit deadline date have combined to create a perfect storm for supply chain leaders this year. The COVID-19 crisis in particular has acted as a major stress test for UK supply chains and their global networks. It quickly exposed a lack of flexibility to adapt rapidly as events unfolded, forcing supply chain leaders to rush to restructure supply chain operations in recent months.

So, considering the challenging events of 2020, what steps have been key to navigating this consistent disruption? And how have businesses acted to future proof supply chain operations no matter what further disruption lies ahead?

 

Adapt to survive

Supply chain disruption is not unusual. Natural disasters, social unrest, and bad weather all regularly inflict headaches on supply chain managers. Yet COVID-19 created a particularly persistent stumbling block – creating global disruption for months on end.

Companies quickly realised they needed to adapt quickly to the “new normal” to survive, and that this ability to adapt rapidly would be vital to weather future disruption too. The coronavirus crisis pushed companies to restructure supply chain operations in order to create far greater levels of supply chain resilience.

This transformation to more adaptive supply chain operations required businesses to focus on the following four key areas.

 

Flexibility

Disruption caused by COVID-19 highlighted the importance of harnessing technology which enables flexibility and keeps vital channels of information open and accessible across organisational and geographical borders. Cloud technology plays a vital role here. Moving data from on-premise storage to cloud-based storage, for example, will ensure that all business information is globally accessible for staff, partners, suppliers and relevant third parties. Ultimately, the flexibility provided by cloud technologies increases supply chain resiliency and minimises risk – better positioning the supply chain to adapt to regional disruption and restrictions.

 

Collaboration

Maintaining collaborative relationships with external partners is key. Deploying a cloud-based platform also allows organisations to improve the contact management relationship with trading partners when disruption occurs. As a result, partners can continue to monitor and supervise the execution of dual sourcing strategies. It also means they can use the centralised management of all trading partner contact information to establish the post-disruption condition of a supply chain quickly – providing significant competitive advantage while also leading to more accurate risk assessment.

 

Visibility

Organisations should consider transitioning to technologies that integrate third-party data sources to provide the visibility needed to speed up and improve decision-making processes – from real-time views of shipment disruptions to supplier delay updates. By doing this, they will be able to self-monitor the functionality of critical components that could be impacted by unforeseen supply chain and operational disruptions.

 

Insights

The cloud represents an integrated digital backbone capable of harvesting real-time insights into the post-disruption condition of the supply chain. Applying and embedding analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to supply chain data and real-time updates enables faster and more effective decision making. It also allows organisations to monitor supplier performance during periods of disruption, and play out scenarios in order to identify the best path of action to follow.

 

Preparing for disruption

While the events of 2020 have created great disruption, the lessons learned during the largest supply chain resiliency experiment to date are likely to leave UK organisations better prepared for the turbulent times that may lie ahead. With the Brexit deadline looming, this includes the uncertainty which remains about the shape of the UK’s trading future. Yet, no matter what happens with Brexit, the pandemic has already forced the creation of more adaptive supply chain operations – leaving UK manufacturers better prepared to exit the EU.

The move to the cloud, combined with greater adoption of cloud-based integration and automation technologies, will help UK organisations to recover more quickly from any future supply chain disruption. As a “black swan event”, COVID-19 will transform the shape of future supply chain operations – leaving many in a stronger, more resilient position than before. This acceleration to digital, adaptive supply chains will remain intrinsic to business continuity and success moving forwards.

 

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