The world of supply chain is in a constant state of change—does its future lie in transforming to a supply network?
The supply chain of today is not what it once was. Where once supply chains were inflexible and one dimensional, they are now so much more. With the opportunities and risks that have come with globalization, there’s been a lengthening of supply chains. Not only have they grown in size but also in the way that they operate. Moreover, with recent events impacting supply chains the world over, they will only be transforming at a greater rate going forward.
However, it’s hard to say the agile, fast, personalized, and highly digitized supply chain that lies on the cutting edge of today and the baseline of tomorrow should really be called a chain anymore. Instead, it’s time to see it for what it is: a network. As supply chains continue their growth, the next step in their evolution is becoming a supply network. And, with that evolution, they can mark a new standard for the production, movement, and delivery of supplies.
This article by Morai Logistics explains what a supply network is and why supply chains should be (and are) moving towards becoming one.
What is a Supply Network?
A supply network is a more comprehensive, dynamic, and multifaceted supply chain. The traditional supply chain has been linear, with the company focusing on its own product. A supply network takes a more holistic approach. An approach that puts more emphasis on the customer and thus looks at the supply chain from beginning to end. Thus, it can involve more than one organization working together to give the end-customer the best value possible.
Here are some key features of a supply network.
Central to the more robust and complex supply system that is a supply network has to be digitization. Without digital transformation, it simply isn’t possible to have the visibility to oversee operations as precisely as needed. Furthermore, digitization gives companies the infrastructure for further technological advancement needed for a supply network. These advancements being (but aren’t limited to) artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and IoT.
The precise, continuous, and thorough collection of data throughout all operations is vital to a supply network. Due the greater complexity of a network, it’s even more important to have data gathered for it. That valuable data, in turn, has to be consolidated so that supply chain managers can get an overview of their operations.
An article by Supply Chain Digital further emphasizes the value of data for a supply network,
Many of today’s supply chains are largely analogue, so even applying near real-time insights often require manual human intervention; in a data-driven world, this is unacceptable. Every aspect of the supply network must be integrated and a great deal of insights-based decision making can be automated, ultimately improving overall speed and effectiveness while driving down costs and reducing errors. Developing this capability depends on the ability of the organisation to bring data to the center of each business function, so companies must be more deliberate in organizing themselves in a way that embraces data-enabled technology.
A network also requires more powerful planning. This involves several things. For one, that means automating planning so that its more efficient and frees up labour. On top of that, planning should involve both demand planning and supply planning. By having these planning systems running at the same time on a unified platform, they can work hand in hand as opposed to apart or even worse, opposing each other.
Finally, a significantly overlooked feature of a supply network is the culture it requires and fosters. Due to the nature of a supply network—that it touches and improves upon every aspect of a supply chain—it impacts practically everyone involved in an organization. As such, it is up to the leaders within a company to remind employees of the coming changes and instill positivity and belief in the transformation. Without the workforce buying into a supply network, it can’t get going.