Why end-to-end visibility is crucial to mitigate supply chain disruption this Christmas

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It’s no secret that many retailers are currently facing significant supply chain challenges and disruptions. For several weeks, major retailers and manufacturers have spoken out about their concerns in the lead up to Christmas as labour shortage, transportation problems, and ongoing issues such as Covid-19 and Brexit cast doubts over what consumers will find on the shelves.

As well as consumers potentially being left disappointed by what’s underneath the Christmas tree this year, they are also feeling the pinch as retailers such as Ikea raise their prices in the face of this ongoing disruption. All of these issues have served to highlight the implications of a lack of visibility across the supply chain.

This lack of visibility and flexibility within supply chains makes it extremely difficult for retailers to prepare for and respond to supply chain disruptions. Fragmented IT infrastructures have left them with significant data silos that prevent ready access to critical information when it matters. This translates into an inability to make informed decisions quickly, based on the most up-to-date information, which hinders their ability to respond to sudden supply issues.

Therefore, with global supply chain challenges expected to spill into 2022, it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to explore how they can address these issues. Essential to this is gaining the visibility required to identify issues, react quickly to unforeseen disruption, and ultimately deliver what their customers desire.

 

The importance of end-to-end supply chain visibility

Currently, the lack of an overarching and accurate view of their business has left many retailers unable to adequately respond to disruptions and make informed business decisions. While they tend to have a wealth of data, their current processes and supporting technologies have not been designed to work in unison. The results? Data silos and an inconsistent, often inaccurate view of data.

To counter supply chain issues, retailers must obtain a single, accurate view across their entire business. This end-to-end supply chain visibility is crucial for them to gain the resilience, agility, and faster, more accurate decision-making capabilities needed to futureproof their operations, and to successfully and intelligently respond to disruptions. While it may not fix delays or issues that are out of the organisation’s control, having end-to-end supply chain visibility can help retailers to better prepare and adapt to challenges in real time before they are able to have a negative impact on in-store supply and product availability.

 

Preparing and adapting in real time

Technology that brings together disconnected processes, applications, and data, predicts when there will be disruption in the “first mile” and then triggers actionable insights is vital here. This requires the use of a data platform that facilitates seamless, real-time communication and data integration between manufacturing, logistics providers, suppliers, and the range of different and disparate systems in use. This type of data integration, which continuously feeds data into and out of the myriad of applications and ERP systems within an enterprise and its ecosystem, is known as a control tower.

Within digitally integrated supply chains, continuous risk insights will highlight constraints that could negatively impact production and sourcing, customer order management, and capacity management. This includes a wide spectrum of events and circumstances – ranging from the supply disruptions and port congestion that we are seeing today, to strikes, adverse weather, and late shipments. These constraints will trigger the necessary actions to be taken for processes including inventory balancing, forecast and demand adjustments, transportation, and replenishment adjustments to name just a few.

This will enable retailers to foresee issues before the consumer can feel the effects and optimise product allocation in real time so products can be allocated or redistributed to locations that need it most, for instance.

 

Taking back control

Currently, there is no end in sight for the global supply chain disruptions. Therefore, it is critical that retailers, manufacturers, and supply chain organisations do whatever is within their power to reduce the impacts on their business and customers. This means adopting technology such as data platforms with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that can integrate, normalise, and harmonise data from across the entire ecosystem of partners, enterprise systems, and applications.

This approach will enable those organisations to obtain a single source of truth to enable actionable insights and analytics to effectively prepare, adapt, and respond to disruption and lessen the impact on consumers this festive season.