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Protecting supply chains during pandemics

Anas A. Abdul-Haiy, Director and Deputy CEO of Proven Consult, describes how supply chains can be protected during pandemics
Anas A. Abdul-Haiy, Director and Deputy CEO of Proven Consult
Anas A. Abdul-Haiy, Director and Deputy CEO of Proven Consult

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As the world is battling against COVID-19, the pandemic has an uneven effect on the supply chain industry. Industries such as auto, travel, consumer goods, electronics, and retail have been profoundly impacted. The supply chain economy has a large and distinct impact on economies of the world that is driven by industrial activities and innovation.

Data Leading the Way 

Having a data-centric approach towards supply chain management is making suppliers more agile in their operations. Using predictive modeling and data simulations, businesses can predict the impact of a sudden decline in demand in one country that can impact the entire supply chain. Live tracking the sales, shipments, and orders with minimum latency will help businesses to identify surge or decline in demand and these data can guide the decisions regarding the production levels.

End-to-End Digitising

Having a cloud-based or web-based ordering system, allows businesses to act on shifts in demand proactively. Creating an end-to-end digital IT ecosystem is key to drive and minimize the latencies. However, to track actual production, inventory levels, and shipments, businesses must leverage various Internet of Things technologies together to bridge data between various processes. Starting from placing the order or query to the actual production and distribution, these various processes in the value chain funnel need to be digitized to enable faster decision making. 

Automation for Agile Supply Chain

While the manufacturers are looking for alternate vendors for their critical components, the reduced labor force and increased demand have led to increased lead time. Accelerating production and reducing manual interventions in the business processes are critical to solving these problems. Suppliers must develop greater automation capabilities to accelerate production and minimize manual interventions in the business process. Using IoT and robotics, businesses can fast track assembly lines, inventory management, and data analytics.

Embracing the Digital Workforce

For manufacturers, labor shortage and replenishment serve as focal points for operations to manage ramp-up in production after temporary shutdowns. Therefore, businesses are embracing the digital work environment and communication channels to continue their operations remotely. Departments such as marketing, finance, and HR has moved to virtual desks. While these techniques act as a solution to cope with the supply chain crisis, it is the principles that are leading the decision making.

New Principles for Sustainable Supply Chain

Diversifying the supply chain will not only make supply chain reliable also help businesses to optimize cost. Businesses can source components for new products from low-cost sources and can launch new products at a lower price to boost their sales. This crisis has key lessons for businesses about reliable and efficient supply chain management. In the immediate term, organizations need to take steps to stabilize supply chain operations by conducting risk assessments and implementing business continuity plans using crisis-management teams.

Crisis Management for Short Term Impact

To address the volatile nature of current supply chain operations, organizations should mobilize a crisis-management team or a war-room setup that has the power to make quick, analysis-based supply chain decisions.

Analysts should examine supplier delivery performance, deviations from plans, canceled orders, fulfillment rates more frequently to identify any potential supply chain issues.

Optimizing HR Strategies

While protecting supply chain businesses is paramount for economies; at the heart of this crisis, people are most affected. Protecting the people working in the supply chain ecosystem must be a priority for businesses amidst the pandemic.

At an unprecedented time of pandemic threats, businesses must make quick decisions led by talented executives to implement new policies and standards to the ground level. As businesses shift towards automation and digitalization, the focus has to be on finding new executive talent for implementing strategical and analytical functions of supply chain management.

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