Nothing in recent memory has shaken the global supply chain quite like COVID-19. From its onset, the pandemic sent waves of disruption that left businesses at every level struggling to adapt in its wake.
Now that the world is slowly beginning its recovery, many businesses are taking the opportunity to examine the performance of their supply chains, systems, and processes.
What weaknesses were exposed? What will the post-COVID supply chain look like? How can we build resilience against future disruptions?
In this blog post, we’ll look at three key lessons learned from COVID-19 and how to transform your supply chain to thrive in the post-pandemic world.
Lack of visibility is not a new problem. Supply chains have long dealt with fragmented management systems and data siloes—barriers that limit transparency, efficiency, and collaboration between stakeholders. The pandemic only magnified these challenges.
When the outbreak began, for instance, overseas suppliers shut down factories and abruptly ceased production of parts, components, and other critical materials. With no insight into activity upstream, supplies ran dry, production bottlenecked, and manufacturers scrambled to obtain materials from secondary sources.
Moving forward, end-to-end visibility solutions—made possible by technologies like blockchain—will be instrumental in helping businesses proactively identify risks and pivot accordingly. So going back to suppliers, manufacturers can use blockchain to connect and share data with their suppliers. With accurate, real-time visibility into available resources upstream, they can quickly identify alternate sources if needed, and ultimately prevent costly production delays.
At the best of times, demand planning and forecasting can feel like a guessing game. So it’s no surprise that many brands and retailers struggled to balance supply and demand amid the massive shifts in consumer buying habits brought about by COVID-19.
When “shelter-at-home” orders took effect, panicked shoppers flooded stores to stock up on food, medical supplies, hygiene products and other household items. These unexpected demand spikes rendered previous forecasts obsolete and caused major replenishment challenges—just think about the empty store shelves and widespread shortages of essentials that we all witnessed. Though demand has somewhat stabilized, this has underscored a pressing need for greater forecasting accuracy.
Advanced technologies artificial intelligence (AI) are here to help. All they need is a data foundation—like that provided by blockchain.
Here’s how it works: supply chain stakeholders log their data on a shared blockchain network—including what, when and where products are being manufactured, shipped and sold. AI models use this real-time and historical data to run analytics, generating accurate, up-to-date demand forecasts as well as intelligent recommendations for optimal inventory allocation, positioning, fulfillment and replenishment.
In the future, brands and retailers can use these insights to quickly sense and adapt to changes in demand—keeping products in stock where they’re needed most.
The pandemic not only caused a huge shift in what people were buying, but also how and where they’re buying it. Brands and retailers suddenly experienced massive spikes in ecommerce sales, as countless brick-and-mortar stores shut their doors. Unfortunately, many were unprepared, largely due to a lack of connectivity between their online and in-store management systems. This made it difficult to view/move inventory between channels and offer alternate fulfillment options like “buy online, pick up in store.”
Even as lockdown restrictions ease, many consumers will likely stick to online orders and curbside pickups for safety and convenience. Brands and retailers that offer these options will have a leg up on the competition—but to do so successfully, they’ll need to bridge the gap between online and offline.
Blockchain technology is one great solution for omnichannel execution, since it allows you to connect and cohesively manage inventory and orders across all sales channels. Businesses can then easily offer fast, flexible fulfillment options, while consumers enjoy a seamless, convenient experience no matter how they shop.
Overall, COVID-19 has made one thing clear for supply chains: this is your call to action for digital transformation. It’s time to replace manual processes and outdated systems for supply chain management with modern solutions for end-to-end connectivity, real-time visibility and data-driven insights. Those that prioritize digital transformation now, will build more resiliency and readily adapt in the post-COVID reality.
Fortunately, investments in such solutions don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Cloud-based solutions—like Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) supply chain management platforms—make it easy to get started with technologies like blockchain and AI and put you on the fast track to digital transformation.
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