How To Harden Supply Chains In Times of Disruption

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As the operations of organizations of all sizes become increasingly globally based, enhancing the supply chain that brings essential raw materials to them is becoming a vital priority. The economic and business interruptions of the 2020 pandemic demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the status quo could not continue. Organizations requiring everything from electronic components to food ingredients were left high and dry when their Chinese suppliers unexpectedly shut down en masse. Therefore, every manufacturer must work diligently to harden their supply chains now to boost flexibility and resilience for tomorrow.


Without having a comprehensive idea of your supply chain as it exists in practice right now, it will be impossible to implement improvements that make a real difference. Therefore, you need to invest time and financial resources into performing a mapping of your entire supply chain network, including products, policies, procedures, participants and supporting elements. Technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can be invaluable in this process since they are capable of gathering, storing and analyzing huge chunks of data. Using historical benchmarks and global intelligence, they can discover bottlenecks and weaknesses in your current networks and make recommendations for mitigation.


With an operation that is this complex, it would be foolhardy to impetuously implement improvements across the board. Considering the potential disruption and communication breakdowns that could result, the stakes are simply too high. Instead, consider using artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and statistical models to create a so-called “digital twin”, a model of one or more of the processes involved in your supply chain. With the digital twin, you can safely test your proposed changes and measure the success of their outcomes without actually endangering any of your current processes.


Once you have examined your current product procurement network, come up with improvements and performed simulations, you can actually incorporate the successful ones into your supply chain to make it more visible, resilient and adaptable in real time. In practical terms, this involves finding a single digital platform that contains that supply map that you worked so hard to create as well as your company’s processes, procedures and vendor relationships. Once this hub is up and running, it can record every interaction with your suppliers and then integrate with its technology AI underpinnings to suggest enhancements or corrective solutions. This approach enables all of your company’s stakeholders to have access in real time to the entire chain of operations, facilitating both communication and collaboration.

The time to put a resilient and strong supply chain into place is not when crises such as the 2020 pandemic arise. By carefully working to discover the best strategies and putting them into practice in advance, your organization will be better able to roll with the changes that stem from natural disasters, cyber crime incidents, trade wars, terrorism and other negative conditions. In other words, hardening your supply chain today cannot change the past or even make present difficulties easier, but it will smooth the road and maximize the chances of your future success.