Perhaps one of the most sweeping outcomes of the 2020 pandemic has been its effect on the global supply chain. From consumer goods to raw materials, products are either unavailable for purchase or take excessively long to reach their destinations. Even common grocery items like baby formula are becoming hard to find, as reported by CBS in an April 2022 report.
Analysts predict that the major supply and demand crunches will have less impact in the future, per CNBC. However, businesses and buyers aren’t content to wait until early 2023 to feel less of a pinch. They want answers now, and they’re getting them in the form of innovative uses of data and technology.
As it turns out, data—when utilized thoughtfully—has value in smoothing out supply chain hiccups. Below are several examples of how data is being tapped to tackle post-pandemic procurement and delivery issues.
1. Data is revealing where companies should focus their resources to satisfy customers.
Nothing is as frustrating for shoppers as being unable to get what they want. To better allocate resources and anticipate needs, some brands are leveraging real-time data analytics. Understanding in-the-moment demands enables teams to pivot and respond.
An example of this type of process is Chipotle’s use of Semarchy’s data management tool. After “The Great Carnitas Shortage of 2015,” the company realized that it needed to make adjustments to its supply chain. By aligning operations, communications channels, and ordering platforms, Chipotle found it could more easily stay ahead of supply chain issues. This has helped the company meet customer experience assumptions and avoid snags.
2. Data is reducing friction from delays in service industries.
Many services that followed more traditional in-person models were forced to embrace digitization during Covid. Many found that their internal processes weren’t ready for the challenges or consumer expectations of online transactions, though. For instance, some small to mid-sized financial lenders realized that they didn’t have the workflows or tools to streamline application processing. As a result, they risked falling behind their bigger competitors.
Data-driven software solutions from entities like publicly traded MeridianLink have helped fill this gap. MeridianLink, valued at over $2 billion, designed a data-rich platform to gather and process loans rapidly. Their platform has enabled nearly 2,000 financial institutions to swiftly turn around consumer loan applications without causing friction.
3. Data is freeing employees to concentrate more fully on supply chain management.
Overcoming major supply chain hurdles can only happen when thought leaders have the bandwidth to brainstorm. Regrettably, far too many of them are bogged down by repetitive tasks. If those tasks can be automated, they can take up far less time. The result is teams who can concentrate on solving high-level concerns.
For instance, consider digital pioneering company IBML and its Cloud Capture software. The software captures, identifies, and classifies information from any source such as a complex invoice or a standard customer return form. Once appropriately logged, the information becomes available to authorized users. This type of consistent data capture facilitates a less clunky document processing.
It also frees executives, managers, and supervisors to divert attention toward pressing supply chain concerns. The supply chain conundrum won’t be fixed overnight or even in a few months. Yet fresh, data-driven solutions can help companies undergo fewer stressors as a result of supply and demand interruptions.
Many businesses have yet to digitize their supply chain processes, but rather rely on paper-based exchanges. This can lead to very limited visibility and coordination, and processes being heavily disrupted in times of crisis. This can lead to a failure to anticipate and meet demand and consequent loss of revenue.
Digitization requires investment and change management, but if properly leveraged it supports visibility, collaboration and communication. Access to real-time data compared with historical data can help businesses to identify cost drivers, support demand-supply balancing, manage warehouse cost by way of stock optimization, optimize processes, and in turn, identify opportunities to lower costs.
This can result in an ecosystem which makes digitization and data sharing pay by improving economic and financial performance.The collection and analysis of data creates valuable visibility and understanding within the supply chain but also greater confidence in the analysis and decision making process.
It enables businesses to introduce governance mechanisms and business models to measure the demand signal across the supply chain. Data can be used to oil the wheels of the supply chain but to achieve these benefits collaboration and the sharing of data is required amongst participants across the supply chain or at least between critical parts of the chain.
Collaboration and data sharing require trust. This can be challenging, particularly where the parties in the supply chain are competitors.
By: Serenity Gibbons
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