Supply Chain Resilience: IT Solutions For Manufacturers


Jacques M. Jean is the founder & CEO at TechFides. He helps organizations build & execute world class IT strategies to optimize operations.

Supply Chain Resilience: IT Solutions For Manufacturers

Unless you worked in the supply chain space in 2019, most of us were only vaguely aware of what supply chains looked like and how all the moving parts we assumed were in those chains functioned and interacted. A little ripple upstream somewhere might make chicken wings or Sriracha or baby formula noticeably more expensive, or even difficult if not impossible to find even if the price is no issue. Bigger ripples upstream might make lumber or gasoline double in price, putting new homes and vehicles in driveways further out of sight for some people. When hiccups happen occasionally to the consumer products and services we frequent, they’re conversation pieces that we commiserate with family and friends over. The pain becomes more acute if a disruption impacts our own business and livelihood and we’re unable to meet customer needs and demands, especially in the manufacturing space.

But what happens when a truly global supply chain disruption occurs, as we saw in 2020, and suddenly, there are hundreds of things in our daily lives that are unavailable or two or three times as expensive if they are? Or worse, the disruption impacts our business operations and production, and the customers whose trust we worked so hard to gain? We collectively sit up in our seats and become much more attuned to the fragility of supply chains, and we wonder “What should we have done differently? How could this be avoided when it happens again?”

Complexity in domestic manufacturing, both in outputs and the hardware required to produce those outputs, coupled with the globalization and offshoring of many of the inputs and components that domestic manufacturers utilize, have changed the entire supply chain paradigm over the past 40-50 years. Cheaper raw materials and machined parts procured overseas are great…until they’re suddenly unavailable. One of the most notable shortages in recent years is silicon chips, of which around 90% of the global supply is produced in Taiwan and China. Almost every piece of electronics we consume in the U.S. depends on the production and availability of these chips, and we all remember the images of tens of thousands of cars and trucks built in the U.S. sitting in lots, unable to be sold because the chips they require simply weren’t available. And it’s more than just an economic/production issue, it’s a major geopolitical strategic issue. The previous and current administrations are putting in the work to repatriate nearly half a trillion dollars of critical manufacturing in several sectors, including silicon chips, but we’ll continue to be heavily reliant on foreign production for the foreseeable future.

Effective supply chain management provides notable benefits, including:

• Risk mitigation.

• Customer satisfaction.

• Cost efficien.

• Competitive advantage.

• Diversification and flexibili.

Technology provides an array of capabilities and tools for managing supply chains, allowing the people who manage those supply chains to make better real-time decisions based on risk, customer demand/pipelines, costs and much more. The caveat with any technology in any space, as always, is “when appropriately and strategically applied.” So how do you fortify your existing supply chain operational model with the tools, capabilities, processes and (perhaps the most important component) the people that can make your supply chain more resilient? Real-world supply chain experience and expertise combined with the dynamic capabilities of software automation can help your business establish this resilience and preparedness through concepts such as:

Real-Time Visibility: Implementing advanced data analytics and IoT (Internet of Things) sensors allows manufacturers to gain real-time visibility into their supply chain. This data can be used to track inventory levels, monitor the condition of goods in transit and identify potential disruptions early.

Cloud-Based Supply Chain Management: Cloud-based software solutions offer manufacturers the flexibility to access their supply chain data from anywhere. These platforms provide real-time collaboration, allowing for faster decision making and adaptive responses to disruptions.

Blockchain Technology: Blockchain can enhance transparency and traceability in the supply chain. Manufacturers can use blockchain to verify the authenticity of products, track the origin of raw materials and prevent counterfeiting.

Predictive Analytics: Leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics, manufacturers can forecast potential disruptions and plan for contingencies. These technologies analyze historical data and real-time information to make accurate predictions.

Supply Chain Orchestration: Supply chain orchestration tools help manufacturers optimize their supply chain operations by automating tasks, managing inventory more efficiently and improving demand forecasting.

Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) Software: SRM software allows manufacturers to strengthen relationships with key suppliers, collaborate more effectively and ensure a stable supply of materials.

Digital Twins: Digital twin technology creates a digital replica of the entire supply chain, enabling manufacturers to simulate and analyze various scenarios. This helps in identifying potential bottlenecks and optimizing processes.

Cybersecurity Measures: Ensuring the security of digital supply chain data is paramount. Robust cybersecurity measures protect sensitive information from cyber threats and data breaches.

Collaborative Platforms: Collaborative platforms enable manufacturers to communicate and share information with suppliers, logistics partners and customers, fostering transparency and adaptability.

Training And Talent Development: Lastly, investing in employee training and talent development ensures that your team can effectively use IT solutions to enhance supply chain resilience.

Supply chain resilience was essentially a competitive advantage in years past; today, it’s an absolute necessity for manufacturers. IT solutions offer an entire spectrum of tools and technologies that can transform a traditional supply chain into a resilient and agile network. By enabling real-time visibility, predictive analytics and collaborative platforms, manufacturers can adapt to disruptions, reduce risks and continue to thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

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