Building a Stronger Supply Chain - 4 Steps to Resilience
In these uncertain times, supply chain resilience is more important than ever—here are 4 steps companies can take to strengthen their supply chains.

With supply chains operating in an increasingly challenging climate, now, more than ever, they require resilience. Resilience is many things. In some part, it can be a mindset and a culture that, when embraced by a company, makes it more responsive and unerring in the face of unfortunate develops that negatively impact its supply routes.

However, resilience is also something that can be planned for and built into a supply chain. There are a number of measures that can and should be taken to bolster supply chains so that they have the inbuilt fortitude to weather any storm. Coupled with the requisite mindset mentioned above, this can put companies of firm ground even in the most testing of times.

This ebook covers the 4 key steps to drive companies towards more robust, agile, and adaptable supply chain operations.

What is the Path to a Healthy Supply Chain, Fit to Handle Whatever Unforeseen Circumstances That Comes its Way?

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Blockchain Technology - 4 Questions to Consider Before Adopting itBlockchain technology could be critical to supply chains going forward, but its implementation shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Blockchain, despite the many concerns remaining around it, continues gaining traction in the world of supply chains. This interest is only being accelerated by the increased digitization of supply chains operations by businesses. As such, increasingly, companies are either entering the consideration phase or early adoption phase in regards to the technology. With that in mind, its critical that those companies that are still in the consideration phase or are about to enter it know the unique challenges that come with blockchain technology before they proceed.

As an article by Consensys explains,

The list of industry-leading enterprises building on the blockchain spans tech leaders (Microsoft), financial institutions (JP Morgan, Santander), and even national governments (Singapore, Dubai, Brazil). But as with any emerging technology, there are some particular and unique quirks and obstacles that all early adopters will face along the way for which even the savviest business leaders considering blockchain solutions should be prepared.

This article by Morai Logistics presents 4 questions that are integral to optimally integrating blockchain into your supply chain operations.

Why do Your Operations Require Blockchain?

When evaluating the need for something, you have to start from the ground up. Blockchain is no different. Why does your supply chain need it? How will it be elevated by it? You need to have a good understanding of the nature of the technology and have it align with the running of your supply chain and the goals you have for it.

A piece by Supply Chain Management Review underscores the nature of a blockchain project,

Blockchain is not an IT or R&D project; it is a fundamental business transformation tool which, if properly implemented, will significantly impact revenue and cost. Blockchain excels where information is shared across an enterprise, as well as with suppliers and customers.

Essentially, you have to assess blockchain and its key features. Upon doing so, you have to ask why your supply chain requires those features.

Do you have the Infrastructure for it?

Blockchain has certain requirements in order to be applicable. If your company doesn’t have the architecture in place for its supply chain to support the technology, then that’s another undertaking it’ll have to commit to alongside blockchain implementation. Key amongst these requirements is digital transformation. Without being digitized, the technology will have nothing to run on.

Are you Planning to Scale Your Operations?

One of the persistent concerns surrounding blockchain technology is its trouble scaling. With that said, you need to know if your company plans on expanding its supply chains operations. If so, implementing blockchain might hurt and slow down those efforts. However, there are a variety of blockchain platforms providers. So looking into which provider is best suited to supporting your plans to scale might somewhat mitigate this issue.

Are you Prepared for the Regulatory Hurdles?

Despite being a technology largely based around transparency, certain facets of blockchain can make it push up again government regulations. In fact, ironically, some of its key features that see it touted as transparent and secure, are features that can run afoul of the regulatory hoops companies have to jump through. Thus, one more consideration you have to take on board, is whether you’ll be compliant with the rules that are in place.

The previously mentioned Supply Chain Management Review article highlights this point,

While regulatory compliance is a frequently mentioned application, in reality, compliance and regulatory issues can present a challenge. As an example, immutable records are a part of blockchain, but this can be a problem when records need to be changed.

Circular Supply Chain - What is it and Why is it Important?With companies putting greater emphasis on sustainability than ever before, it’s critical to understand what a circular supply chain is and how it functions. 

Today’s supply chain is one that caters its practices and operations to customer demands as precisely possible. In turn, few things rank more highly on the list of customer concerns than sustainability. Not only that, but the need for sustainability is also being driven forward by governments around the world, with numerous penalties and incentives for companies that are more or less compliant with their regulations and guidelines. As such, companies are quickly making a transition to ‘green’ supply chains. Supply chains that are less wasteful, use materials that are recyclable, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and more.

However, making that transition is far from easy and requires a holistic change in the way that supply chains are operated and managed. Essentially, companies need a new operating model. This is where the concept of a circular economy and circular supply chain comes into play. These concepts mark a paradigm shift; a novel way in which companies can design their supply chains for sustainability going forward.

This article by Morai Logistics explains what a circular supply chain is, how it works, and why its significant.

What is it?

A circular supply chain is a supply chain that is geared around reusing its ostensible waste materials as well as its returns. It aims to take these materials and returns and convert them into new products that they can sell once more. Thus, it marks a shift for supply chains. A shift in which waste as its traditionally known no longer exists or is kept to a bare minimum. Naturally, this also means near-perfect sustainability.

An article by Trade Ready elaborates further on the nature of circular supply chains and what they look like,

A circular economy is alternative to the traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value while the product is in use. When the product has reached the end of its life-cycle, then core materials are recovered and regenerated. The circular economy is waste-free and resilient by design.

Why is it Important?

It is a new model for supply chains because, by its very nature, it fulfills a need companies are desperately trying to meet. That being the above mentioned need for sustainability. It flips many previous intuitions on their head. In a circular supply chain, there’s value in waste. Where waste is normally seen as a source of weakness, a circular economy makes it a resource. A resource that’ll translate into more products.

Moreover, its not only a forward-thinking model in terms of its outcomes, but also in its management. Crucially, it marks another step towards the marriage of technology and supply chain practices, as digitization is key in enabling a circular supply chain. With that in mind, perhaps the next big thing in supply chain technology could be an all-encompassing system that enables companies to ‘go circular” as currently they have to adopt several technologies to do so.

A recent post by Supply Chain Digital emphasizes both the points above,

“The circular economy creates an ecosystem of materials,” commented Sarah Watt, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “What was previously viewed as waste now has value. However, those ecosystems are complex and include many interdependencies and feedback loops. Digital technology has the potential to provide visibility and enable improved decision making when it comes to raw materials and services”…study showed that there is no ‘all purpose technology’ that will enable an organisation to develop a circular economy, it is a combination of technology that leads to this.

Top 4 Supply Chain Technology Trends in 2020Supply chains are largely defined by the technology that facilitate them, as such it’s crucial to know the technology trends that are shaping the year.

The demands placed upon companies’ supply chains are greater than ever and they’re only growing. Supply chains are to be faster, cheaper, more flexible, more transparent, more green, and a whole lot more. As such, technology has had to keep abreast of these new requirements. In turn, the amount of new technology being tried out in supply chains is astounding and impossible to cover in its entirety. However, there are a number of technology trends worth keeping track of.

This article by Morai Logistics runs down 4 of the most noteworthy supply chain technology trends to watch out for in 2020.

5G

The advent of 5G received a lot of attention in 2019. However, it’s in 2020 where it’s set to finally start seeing wider adoption. Being the latest generation in wireless technology, 5G means companies will be able to access the internet at speeds several times faster than before. This will have an incredible impact on supply chains. They’ll be able to manage and transfer data at rates far greater than before. And, with data being central to supply chain success, this will go a long way.

This is something that Logistics View Points covered in further depth in a recent article,

5G will impact supply chain and logistics by allowing more data to be transferred more quickly in real-time, in turn making increased visibility throughout the supply chain possible. As more and more devices throughout the supply chain and manufacturing process become part of the “Internet of Things,” they will produce an incredibly rich data stream that will send signals in real-time to trigger a wide variety of events.

With that said, 5G remains in the nascent stages of having the infrastructure to support itself for widespread adoption. Thus, it remains to be seen whether it will take off for supply chains in 2020 or whether it’ll take more time.

Supply Chain Applications

Applications are already in the process of transforming the way in which supply chains are run. That is only set to continue this year. Two of the most important components of a healthy supply chain are visibility and real-time data. Critically, both of these factors are optimized through to use of supply chain apps. They allow everyone along the chain to know what is happening as it’s happening.

Machine Learning for Warehouse Management

The pressures placed upon warehouses are numerous and ever-growing. The e-commerce explosion taking place is changing the way they have to operate. As a consequence, they need to be able to anticipate and prepare for customer demand more precisely than ever before. This is why in 2020 there’s a big opportunity for companies to apply machine learning to their warehouses. Through machine learning, supply chain managers will be able to better predict and respond to demands.

Another Logistics View Point article explains,

Machine learning’s ability to adapt to changing conditions makes it especially well-aligned with the dynamic nature of today’s e-commerce warehouses. Manhattan Associates utilizes machine learning within its WMS to determine the amount of time required to complete a certain task in a given set of circumstances such as historic duration and item characteristics.

Integration Throughout Supply Chains

Due to the complex and multifaceted nature of supply chains, the data within them are susceptible to being silo’d. As data in the different sections of a chain might be collected via separate sources—different tools—the resulting data might become isolated. This, in turn, leads to supply chain managers getting an incomplete view of their operations. This is why 2020 should see further attention being brought to the importance of integrated platforms. Platforms where the totality of operational data can be consolidated, giving managers a unified view of their supply chain.

4 Key Steps to Supply Chain Digital TransformationMore than ever, companies are moving towards digitizing their supply chains—here are 4 steps they have to consider for their supply chain digital transformation.  

The necessity for supply chain digitization has never been more evident. Given the transparency, agility, and efficiency needed in modern day supply chains, it’s hard to get around the fact their operations have to be digital. Moreover, many of the technologies becoming increasingly important to supply chains either require or are bolstered by digitization. Thus, the future supply must be digital.

An article by GlobalTranz explains,

If the vision of Industry 4.0 is to be realized, most enterprise processes must become more digitized … A critical element will be the evolution of traditional supply chains toward a connected, smart, and highly efficient supply chain ecosystem. 

With that said, digital transformation is a considerable endeavour. On top of money and resources, it also requires an entirely new way of operating. As such, digitization, as counterintuitive as it sounds, is every bit as much about non digital factors as it is about digital ones.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights several of the most important factors companies have to contend with if they want their supply chains to have a successful digital transformation.

Remembering the Fundamentals

As important as the innovation that comes with going digital is, it can’t be the only thing supporting a supply chain. Its foundation must remain. Meaning, whatever made the supply chain successful in the first place must remain. In turn, with those fundamentals in place, they can then be further improved by digital assistance. For example, quality control can be further refined by smart sensors. Reliability can be enhanced by forecasting. A healthy digital supply chain should then be a marriage between the old and the new.

A post by McKinsey covers this in further detail,

To be successful in a digital transformation, though, it’s important that your supply chains retain traditional strengths (reliability, predictability, quality) while also allowing for innovation (greater use of automation, quicker responses to changing needs, more transparency across supply chain).

Maintaining Workforce Balance

Just as companies will require a blend of the old and the new in how they operate, the same will apply to their workforce. Not everyone will be technologically proficient and be able to use digital tools. It’s important having people who can make the most of the incredible benefits of digitization. But they aren’t the end all be all. The older supply chain professionals are still required. They have insights and expertise that are going to be timeless. It’s critical for companies not to turn their backs on them once they are digitized.

Promoting Education & Culture

With all that in mind, some aspects of the workforce will require training so that they can adapt to their new work environment. Moreover, the overall mindset of all those across the supply chain will have to transform too. Culture remains arguably the biggest impediment to a successful digital transformation. If companies don’t foster an attitude of innovation, transparency, data-driven processes, and more, their transformation simply won’t sustain itself.

Managing Risks

Finally, it’s crucial that companies remain cognizant of the risks that emerge from going digital. For instance, a transformation can take place without the technological infrastructure to fully support what it’s intended for. Which, in turn, leads to the transformation essentially be caught in stasis until further innovation takes place.

The earlier mentioned McKinsey post emphasizes some other risks that come from transformation,

But probably the most important risks to mitigate are those that can arise from the transformation itself, especially when a transformation loses sync with the technology needed to support it. At one extreme is “pilot purgatory,” in which perfectionism and inflexible processes keep promising ideas from ever reaching scale. At the other, the transformation can end up promising much more than existing technology and practices can deliver.

Going Green - Sustainability in Supply Chains

More than ever, companies are realizing the importance of making sustainability a priority in their supply chains—this is how they’re making that transition. 

Sustainability is quickly becoming a necessity rather than a choice. This isn’t only for regulatory reasons, though avoiding fines and penalties certainly is important to companies. Rather, companies are recognizing that making their supply chains environmentally friendly also has positive results on their reputation and customer satisfaction.

As such, it’s more critical than ever for companies to have a game plan when making their transition towards sustainability. With that said, this game plan needs to be multifaceted and comprehensive but still realistic. Going green doesn’t have to be the monumental task it seems if such a strategy can be enacted.

This ebook goes over the main steps companies are taking to make their supply chains greener and the key considerations that coincide with those measures.

What are Companies doing to ensure that Sustainability is Central to their Supply Chains?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Omnichannel Supply Chains - What are They and What do They Look Like?

Omnichannel supply chains are the future, yet there remains some confusion surrounding them—just what are they and what characteristics do they display?

The more customer expectations get detailed, varied, and complex, the more companies have to adapt. Omnichannel supply chains are such an adaptation. In the domain of retail, a transition is taking place from exclusively brick-and-mortar stores to both brick-and-mortar and online stores. As such, single channel supply chains are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With that said, what is an omnichannel supply chain exactly and how does it differ from one that is multichannel? Moreover, in practice, what does it look like?

This article by Morai Logistics covers just what an omnichannel supply chain is as well as the most prominent features it displays.

What is a Omnichannel Supply Chain?

Simply put, an omnichannel supply chain is a single supply chain where consumers have more than one option to fulfill their orders. For example, in the case of a pizza shop, they might want to provide two avenues for their customers to purchase their pizzas, online and in person. In turn, their supply chain would have two different considerations for fulfilling orders.

In many ways omnichannel is similar to a multi channel supply chain. However, there’s a key way in which it’s different and thus stands out. An article from River Logic explains:

Although the terms multichannel and omni channel are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences. Multichannel refers to multiple supply chains used to satisfy each type of shopping experience. Each channel is separate. The online catalog is different from items stocked in physical stores, and pricing may differ. Each store has its own stock, often jealously guarded, and the organization’s online store is a separate entity from retail stores. Omni channel supply chains are completely different in that there’s only one supply chain.

So, with the broad strokes of what an omnichannel supply chain is covered, what are some of the most common components that make it up?

Integrated

No dimension of an omnichannel supply chain is more important than operational integration. All its processes need to managed on a single software platform. With the added complexity that comes with having numerous channels, those channels then need to be kept track of. A unified platform that tracks all the data and fulfillment avenues is critical as a result. By extension, digitization is also a must.

No Silos

As a consequence of the necessary integration, ominchannel channel supply chains also tend not have silos. These could be operational silos, data silos, or business silos. The main thing is, just like a modern day supply chain should have visibility throughout its chain, so should an omnichannel. Perhaps more so, due the various channels it has to contend with. With a greater possibility of complication should come a greater need for simple and straightforward oversight.

Flexible & Efficient

Due to the nature of an omnichannel supply chain, it needs to have inventory on the ready, particularly in the case of online orders, at locations nearest to the customer. That means running a supply that is precise with its analytics and forecasting so it can be flexible in meeting the demands placed upon it.

As highlighted in the preciously mentioned River Logic article:

In both instances [retail stores and online], carrying excess stock is costly and inefficient. What’s needed is supply chain agility together with analytics that help determine future demand with some degree of accuracy and an ability to balance conflicting demands while managing distribution costs.

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Customer experience is on its way to becoming the most important factor in supply chain success—here are 4 ways to improve it. 

Making supply chains as customer-centric as possible is set to become priority number 1 for companies. It’s what makes companies stand out. In turn, it’s what makes customers want to do repeat business with them. As such, companies are focusing on ways to use their supply chains to enhance customer experience.

As covered in a recent Supply Chain Movement article,

Customer experience will soon be the most important factor for a successful supply chain – even more important than low costs, according to six out of ten supply chain professionals. They ranked it as the number one brand differentiator in the coming years, putting it ahead of price and product in a recent global survey.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights 4 of the most critical ways in which companies can improve their customer experience via their supply chains.

Listen to and Study Your Customers

These are certainly obvious considerations. Nonetheless, they’re worth addressing. Customers want and often expect a personalized experience. If companies can provide it to them, they often gain longtime loyal consumers. Fortunately, there’s a fairly straightforward two-pronged approach to meeting this customer requirement.

The first thing companies can do is simply listen to their customers as well as specifically ask for feedback through whatever channels they have available. Secondly, once they have sufficient data on their customers, companies should create multiple buyer personas. These personas should include exactly what these potential buyers would want on their customer journey. This process should be dynamic, adapting to new customers and new expectations.

Eliminate Data Silos

The various teams, processes, and operations within a supply chain should have data flowing freely between them. More than that, all their data being collected should be consolidated and kept in a single, unified platform. The easiest avenue to achieving this is digital transformation. But regardless of how companies do so, they need their all data to be easily accessible and easy to sort through.

As a result of this, companies can then keep up with the functioning of their supply chain on all levels. And, in turn, keep their customers informed as well. This is also helpful in the case of any issues that arise. After all, customers are much more understanding of companies that are proactive in mentioning and addressing their mistakes, as opposed to ones that wait for negative feedback to respond.

Enhance Visibility

If companies want to be able to avoid and fix for impediments within their supply chains, it’s crucial that they have visibility across them. If an order is late or having problems, it’s of the utmost importance that companies be aware of that. Otherwise, orders may never arrive. Thus, companies have to ensure they utilize integrated and transparent supply chain management.

Visibility isn’t only important for the company itself, however. A post by Bringg distinguishes between the two types of visibility needed,

Internally, businesses need to have full visibility over their own fleets, inventory, warehouse and drivers. On the customer end, consumers today want to have full visibility over their delivery – from when it leaves the warehouse, restaurant, or service center until it arrives to their house.

Embrace Data, Analytics, and Machine Learning

Data is a company’s primary resource to transform into top notch customer experience. This is because, through data collection, companies can gain insights into how their various operations are doing through analytics. Which, in turn, can be conveyed to customers or used to mitigate any supply chain breakdowns. Moreover, that gathered data can also be used for machine learning. A function of AI that helps with predicting demand and forecasting.

Supply Chain Technology 2019 - Year in Review Part 2

2019’s over, but there’s plenty of technology to look back on over the course of the year to see what affects it had on supply chains.

The move by companies towards digitization grew more pronounced in 2019. As such, many of the technologies that digital transformation supports grew as well. Part 1 of this review covered several of them, including AI, automation, and IoT.

Christian Titze from Gartner explains,

As companies seek to exploit the benefits of greater levels of digitalization, new and innovative technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models

Nonetheless, there’s plenty more to cover. Supply chains looked to a number of other technologies to elevate the running of their operations last year.

This article by Morai Logistics underscores many of the most significant developments in supply chain technology in 2019.

Blockchain

Blockchain didn’t have a breakout year in terms of adoption by supply chains by any means. Rather, it was a yer of tentative interest. Blockchain remains a technology in need of maturing. As such, the limitations that plague it like difficulty in supporting scalability remain a problem for it. In spite of that, its many benefits still have companies watching it closely.

A Gartner article expounds on why blockchain grew in prominence in 2019, despite its limitations,

In theory, organizations should know all parties in their supply chain network (within the broader business ecosystem) and trust them — but this is far from today’s reality. Blockchain technologies, as an example, could be an answer to address this problem across three areas — counterfeiting, visibility/traceability and efficiency play.

Robots and Cobots

Robotics only saw an incremental increase or similar rates of adoption in supply chains in 2019. As highlighted in this Supply Chain Dive article,

About 32% of supply chain professionals say they are actively using robotics and automation … This number has gone relatively unchanged since 2016 when 35% of respondents said they were actively using robotics and automation, but anecdotal evidence and market value forecasts show warehouse robotics growing.

With that said, even though robots saw little change, cobots gained some attention. A trend that continued from previous years, as seen in the sharp increase in cobot production numbers. This was probably due to the fact that cobots, by virtue of being robots that collaborate rather than replace human workers, aren’t as disruptive to workplaces. Moreover, not quite as much is expected of them as they aren’t necessarily doing tasks in isolation.

Immersive Technology

Certainly, virtual, augmented and mixed reality are immersive technologies that have been around for quite some time. However, it was in 2019 where companies began to explore their use in their business operations. That includes their supply chains, where they can have considerable benefit in a number of areas, including manufacturing and logistics. One reason for this is because they can help with predictive maintenance, displaying all the relevant data on AR glasses.

Digital Twin

Digital twins are online visualization of an actual system, such as a supply chain. Thus they have proven to be fantastic at creating end-to-end visibility of supply chains. Which in turn enables supply chain managers to have a clear understanding of how their chain is functioning and quickly respond to any issues it might be plaguing it.

All Things Supply Chain’s post further covers why using digital twins gained the traction it did over the past year,

The computer-aided duplicate of things has evolved in many ways: Today, digital twins are not only used for real-time product monitoring, but also for opening up new business areas. Scenario testing and analysis can be used to assess future potential success. In manufacturing, for example, a digital twin can answer all the crucial questions: How much do I produce or am I able to produce? How much capacity do I have? Are my plans still realistic?

The Cloud - Transforming Supply Chains Part 2

The cloud is redefining the way in which supply chains can operate to their tremendous benefit—here’s how. 

The cloud is a technology that at times goes overlooked. It doesn’t quite generate the same attention as some other tech buzzwords like blockchain or AI. Yet, the cloud is the facilitator of supply chain innovation. It is the mechanism through which digital transformation becomes a reality. Without it to pull the many disparate pieces of technology together, companies suffer from knowledge gaps due to data silos.

As such, it’s not an understatement to say that the cloud has transformed the way in which supply chains function. It has served as a kind of master key, liberating companies to have the totality of their data in one place. In turn, allowing all that data to be consolidated, interactive, and be transparently understood.

This ebook covers many of the key features that come with adopting the cloud and how those features bring numerous advantages.

In What ways is the Cloud Changing Supply Chains and What Advantages are They Gaining as a Result?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.