A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are dealing with a landscape in which surging customer demand in one area coexists with strict lockdowns elsewhere, cracking open wider fissures in global supply chains. Against this backdrop, companies are also wrestling with global shortages in semiconductors, aluminum, rare earth minerals and more. Amid these sources of disruption, organizational resilience has re-emerged as a board priority.
While today’s overall supply chain disruption is unprecedented, the means for dealing with it are not, with real solutions to improve end-to-end visibility, simulation and risk monitoring. Advances in technology — such as internet of things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and software such as control towers — have put the goal of end-to-end visibility more in reach.
However, the choice of solutions providers, from startups to established players, can be overwhelming, creating confusion for some about what their next steps should be. The right path forward should not only address risks, but reframe them as potential opportunities. Here’s what companies can do to acquire new capabilities and strengthen existing ones, to effectively confront the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Developing a business case
Given the waves of disruption ahead, resilience needs to be a priority every day — not just in times of crisis — to meet changing expectations, minimize potential risks and seize opportunities.
For instance, when disaster struck on the other side of the world, one global technology company that had the right digital platform in place was able to respond at pace. The technology identified and surfaced the problem by looking at data, analyzed the impact to production schedules and highlighted supplier risks, then automatically called team members into an online group chat and made suggestions in real time. The capability to make decisions and pivot when events are occurring is not an imagined future state for companies with far-flung global operations. In fact, this happened a decade ago, during the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.
However, without proper consideration, organizations may be shoveling time and effort into a shiny new toy instead of a solution. Facing delayed shipments, one business spent a fortune on real-time freight visibility — a tool that wowed the boardroom and can be extremely useful. But in this case, it didn’t resolve the true issue: consistent delays caused by bottlenecks in finishing paperwork and loading the trucks on time. If you’re not focused on the right problem to solve and the business benefit you want, you can’t pinpoint the proper way forward. Be ruthlessly focused on your organization’s real pain points and the value that you want to achieve.