About   |   Newsletter
Demand & Supply Chain Management Evolution

20 Apr 2020
Building a Resilient Supply Chain

Kovvuri Rajasekhar
Blue Yonder

The very nature of supply chains—the movement of goods and services—means it’s unsurprising they have been drastically disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. We have heard the term supply chain resilience around the globe since the pandemic began. 

With several areas in lockdown, borders shut, and businesses ordered to temporarily close by governments, many organizations were thrown into chaos. Supply chain planners around the world are grappling with an unprecedented task of balancing extreme demand and supply variations occurring at the same time.


Lean or Frail?

Traditionally, supply chains were tuned based on lean manufacturing concepts such as minimizing inventories, optimizing asset utilization, etc. By making their supply chains as lean as possible, companies could provide goods quickly and cost-effectively. Though lean manufacturing played a vital role in improving the supply chain efficiencies, it also has some serious drawbacks exposed by the pandemic.  

Disruptions were viewed as those occurring in the short term, such as a late shipment or a machine breakdown. Organizations by and large have had enough buffer or strategy in place to be resilient enough to offset such disruptions.

Perhaps rather than being lean, supply chains had accidentally become frail—they were simply not prepared to react to the disruptions we have observed as of late.

As McKinsey & Company notes, it’s impossible to foresee unknown risks—whether they’re natural, such as a volcanic eruption near a factory, or man-made, for example, if a supplier goes out of business. No crystal ball exists that will allow businesses to predict these kinds of events, so they must put their supply chains in a better position to react when they happen.


Resilient Over Lean

Once the impact of the pandemic settles down and a new “normal” emerges, supply chain planners will soon stare at two daunting choices: should their supply chains be lean or should they be more resilient, based on their latest experience? Or should it be a combination of both? How should they manage a combination practically?

Resilience is key not just in the near term, but also in the medium and long term. The need for speed, visibility, and agility is greater than ever. The fixed cadence of hourly, daily, weekly and monthly runs may no longer be valid. Any event, depending on its scope, should trigger a corresponding and synchronous course correction throughout the planning horizon. The need of the hour is that the boundaries of the age-old fixed cadence-based planning need to be blurred in the quest for seamless planning.


Using Technology for 20/20 Vision

Supply chain management technology can also play a crucial role; if businesses cannot keep track of everything that is happening, how can they begin to react when they hit disruption? They need to evolve from reactive to proactive and predictive. How can a planner be alerted six months in advance that a critical raw material will be unavailable? Or that there could be labor unrest leading to capacity shortages? Any socio-economic event occurring in any part of the globe could have a cascading effect on many other supply chains.

This is where control towers can be deployed to give visibility overall activity, offering a visual representation that makes it possible to fully comprehend the events unfolding around us.

Once the visibility is achieved, businesses can also leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to ‘read’ what is going on and recommend remedial measures through predictive analytics. In time, these advanced technologies could even implement the changes without the intervention from humans, to form an autonomous supply chain. This provides an organization with the required edge to stay ahead of the curve.


A Strategy for Getting Supply Chains into Shape

Once the chaos began and continues to unfold, too many businesses relied heavily on suppliers that were single-source and based halfway around the world. Therefore, it is important to ensure that fundamental supply chain strategies are in place, such as having an appropriate mix of strategic supplies for critical raw materials, enabling end-to-end visibility, and ensuring a good process orchestration.

Now’s the time to learn from this and build up better visibility and a higher level of risk-awareness. Businesses must focus on building up the muscles of a strong supply chain by using strategies that give them more options while employing technologies to provide extra insight and guidance. If they can do this, businesses will emerge with a stronger supply chain, putting them in a much greater position to deal with disruptions.






           Circular Economy     Industry 4.0     Blockchain 

     Internet of Things     Omni Channel 

Join us on

News & Trends

Last update 2 Jul 2020
Record rise in manufacturing PMI amid looser COVID-19 restrictions
   Source: Markit US Manufacturing PMI   -  IHS Markit
United States 


Today’s omni-channel marketplace means competition is increasing, consumers are demanding more relevant products, inventory lifecycles are shorter and fulfillment is incredibly complex. Business conditions are constantly changing, which means you need the flexibility to adapt quickly and continu...

Mitigating the Impact of the Coronavirus on Supply Chains with Machine Learning and Real-Time Visibility

A New York Times article from August 2019 highlights how much artificial intelligence (AI) is indebted to humans. That is because lots and lots of people are needed to help an AI system learn so that it can eventually...


Local & Regional Agenda

HOYER: Future-Proofs System for Managing Intermodal Rail, Road, and Sea Transport to Meet High Growth Potential

HOYER is an independent family enterprise that dates back to 1946, and which has become one of the world’s leading bulk-logistics providers, offering comprehensive transport services and complex logistics soluti...

Investigating Sales Management Role in Commercial Returns: Enhancing the changes of cusomer needs

The business-to-business competitive environment is dramatically changing, and firms need to learn how to keep up. Manufacturers must attempt to deliver incremental value to enhance business relationships and to do this ...

International Agenda