Organisations across Asia Pacific are arguably facing more disruption than ever before. Earlier this year, the bushfires followed by torrential rain and ensuing floods halted the Australian economy. And now, the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to change the way many businesses operate for the foreseeable future.
Countries are effectively in lockdown – the streets are empty and businesses have halted. As the lock down continues worldwide, the production of goods have also been disrupted. Couple these challenges with stringent social distancing restrictions, companies are now having to navigate un-chartered territory as the new norm.
So, when it comes to optimising the supply chain, how can businesses ensure they stay afloat?
The impact of COVID-19
In an increasingly connected world, maintaining supply chain efficiency is of high importance to the global economy. We can see this today in the unfolding impact of the coronavirus. No doubt, China is Australia’s largest trading partner for both imports and exports, particularly in industries such as manufacturing and education. Since the pandemic intensified, boarder closures, movement restrictions and disruptions have made it more challenging to continue production and transport goods internationally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the seamless supply of goods, with companies experiencing volatile supply and demand fluctuations. On one hand, consumer shift to e-commerce has created a surge in demand, particularly within the food and beverage industry, meaning both supply and speed of delivery is more crucial than ever. On the other hand, government lock-down mandates on non-essential services have seen New Zealand companies lose up to 70% of their freight supply during their Level 4 lockdown.
To minimise disruption and risk, businesses are being forced to diversify how and from where they source their products and services. In this environment, organisations need to consider an ‘elastic’ approach to their supply chains; an approach that is always-on, consumption-based and scalable. An elastic supply chain strategy can help supply chain managers stay on the front-foot, alleviating risks associated with changing customer expectations.
Using data wisely to obtain real-time visibility
Many organisations in the industry take a ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ approach to their supply chains. This is risky as businesses need to look to constantly improve and innovate, capitalising on shifts in consumer demand and the market. No doubt, modern supply chains require a high degree of agility to navigate large scale disruptions and fluctuations in demand.
To address these challenges, businesses should adopt the use of insightful data sets and forecasting tools to make better decisions across the supply chain. For example, The Freight Market Index (FMI) provides transportation market intelligence for shippers, carriers and industry professionals. It contains real-time data that enables customers to benchmark themselves against one another and understand opportunities or trade-offs between cost and service to drive decisions for business value.
Additionally, increasing consumer expectations for on-demand goods requires organisations to have a robust, flexible solution in place to enhance the delivery experience. Simply put, outdated IT systems and transport management solutions create silos between existing systems and process. To uncover intelligent insights, businesses must integrate data from applications and systems across the business.
One tool that provides near real-time visibility of end-to-end delivery is the use of a mobility platform. Mobile solutions provide transportation suppliers with improved visibility of carriers and assets so delivery challenges can be addressed. Companies that are electronically connected to their trading partners, through electronic data exchange or using application programming interfaces, can achieve better supply chain performance.
A good demonstration of this is Woolworths. The company is currently hiring 20,000 more workers to meet unprecedented demand for groceries and to ensure their online operations can keep up with home delivery services. Tracking and optimising hundreds of loads daily means successfully liaising with distribution centres and third-party carriers. This is only made possible via a cohesive transportation management system which provides data-driven collaboration between logistics partners to ensure they can plan, organise, dispatch and complete documentation effectively.
Establishing a resilient supply chain
Ultimately, success in the supply chain industry requires a network of trading partners and seamless connectivity to those partners; it’s all about the interoperability between systems and applications. A collaborative supply chain model helps partners locate resources needed on demand, providing capacity where and when businesses need it.
Collaboration within the supply chain is no easy feat; it’ll take time to build trust among partners and suppliers. Those who are quick to collaborate with others in the same space, including competitors, will accelerate in times of crisis. To drive industry-wide collaboration, organisations and technology providers need to change the way they operate, and this includes sharing networks, data and insights to achieve a more agile and resilient supply chain.
While unavoidable, disruption should be used as an opportunity to improve the flexibility and scalability of supply chain operations to meet changing demand. With the right tools and greater partner collaboration, businesses can better navigate fluctuations using data to improve visibility across their network.