International supply chains are in the midst of widespread disruption. New technological forces are both introducing exciting capabilities and creating complex challenges. Shifts and consolidations in worldwide markets are making long-standing relationships more complicated. On top of all this, supply chains are being asked to keep pace with rapidly rising expectations for distribution and logistics.
To the credit of supply chain managers and thought leaders everywhere, most supply chains continue to operate effectively. But the pace of recent changes simply highlights the scale of the changes coming down the road. And as much as supply chains have had to adapt already, they can expect larger and deeper changes to arrive soon.
In light of this situation, every enterprise that is invested in a supply chain needs to be asking how adaptable it is. Here are some signs that indicate it can’t change as quickly or capably as it will need to.
Lack of Oversight
A mountain of information related to a supply chain is not the same as oversight. This is a classic example of losing the forest through the trees. Many supply chains lack a mechanism that gives managers and decision makers broad oversight over the supply chain as a whole. In the absence of this perspective, it becomes much harder to make widespread changes in a confident and calculated manner.
If and when it becomes necessary for a supply chain to adapt, the number of details that must be considered and re-calibrated is staggering. Trying to do it without the aid of data is foolish. Unfortunately, many supply chains do not collect and consolidate the information they need to fully understand their operations. Without something like ERP distribution software in place to give form and function to the data, it loses much of its value.
Adaptability is all about being able to prepare for change before it arrives. But many supply chains are so focused on the present and immediate future that they have no way to forecast the changes that are right around the corner. As a result, they offer nothing but confusion and challenges when those changes arrive. A supply chain that is too disconnected from the rest of an enterprise will always be struggling to play catch up.
Integrating new technologies into a supply chain is a time and labor-intensive process with a lot of trial and error involved. That process only becomes more frantic and less effective when those technologies are overdue. A big component of adaptability is having the right IT in place already so that supply chains don’t have to contend with a major implementation initiative while also transforming in other areas. Essentially, a supply chain that is already behind the times must to go that much farther to catch up.
One of the most pervasive issues in supply chain management is the lack of a cohesive strategy. Many supply chains are guided by targets and benchmarks but they have no real purpose or agenda. Basically, they just serve a logistical need and have no expectations beyond being effective. This is fine for the present, but a lack of vision makes change much more complicated. It leads directly to misplaced priorities, misguided initiatives, misunderstood opportunities.
These signs are all important to be vigilant for, but the most obvious indicators are the most instructive. A supply chain that has historically been slow to change and resistant to new ideas is ill-equipped for the future. The time to start preparing for what comes next is right now.