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Future-ready: The Reconfigured Supply Chain of Tomorrow

How enterprises can look at building a smart and future-ready supply chain ecosystem with the help of digital technologies.

India ranks 12th on the World Bank’s export of goods and services contributing 18.7% to the Indian economy. As such, India’s supply chain holds paramount importance for our economy as well as the global ecosystem. As the world went through a supply and subsequent demand shock due to the lockdown, it hasexposed vulnerabilities in the production strategies and supply chains of businesses across the globe.

India being the 3rd largest exporter of pharmaceuticals also spawned a void in the global market — creating a ripple effect on the global supply chain ecosystem. Temporary trade restrictions and scarcities of critical medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other products highlighted their vulnerabilities.

Governments, enterprises, and individual consumers struggled to procure necessities, and materials, and were confronted with the fragility of the modern supply chain. The urgent need to plan and develop smarter, stronger, and more diverse supply chains has been one of the main lessons of this crisis.

Reinventing your supply chain wheel

COVID has provided a push mechanism to accelerate the digitalization of the supply chain ecosystem. With the social distancing norms, physical stores have been compelled to shift online and become more experiential for their customers. It has improved the efficiency and performance of many players, for example — the logistics industry, supply chain risk provider, giant retail, e-commerce platforms, vendors, and solutions providers as they have come out as winners during this pandemic.

An organization needs to be stable, predictive, agile, and responsive to have their supply chain function efficiently. Robust urban logistics operations such as the food & grocery deliveries, e-commerce platforms such as leading e-commerce platforms have taken the opportunity to meet the demand of their customers due to being a digital native from the inception.

With the disruptive technologies that are connecting the physical and digital worlds of the supply chain has seen significant improvement in the overall cognitive capability ecosystem — like the ability to marry different contexts (large & divergent data sets) seamlessly for complex decision-making via AI, or the promise of a 5G enabled world that engages in real-time, are just a couple of reasons why this is a here and now phenomenon. As we see customers increasingly becoming comfortable replacing the physical world experiences with digital journeys, their acceptance of being served by cognitive technologies will also see a natural uptick.

Extensive use of IoT-enabled for long-distance as well as in-warehouse tracking, routing, and reporting of consignments/packages. Innovative warehouse management solutions that can leverage technology extensively by using capabilities such as machine vision, robotics, and IoT to accurately manage inbound/outbound operations from vehicle loading/unloading, equipment assignment, storage location identification, picking/packing/labeling to shipping. Long-distance logistics is accompanied by massive regulations, paperwork, and exchange of information in specified formats, etc. By the use of electronic data exchange effectively, along with specific physical-digital interfaces, the processes are becoming increasingly digitized and hence, simplified.

Creating a global automated supply chain ecosystem

An organization needs also to keep in mind the cost factor. Supply chain automation processes can save and nurture the crucial area of numerous businesses regarding logistic costs — transportation, warehousing, and administration. The role of IoT can help with temperate checks of perishable goods to prevent wastage.The pandemic has made automation even more attractive, as social distancing in factories and plants are now a necessity. With robotics and automation technologies, enterprises can enhance the physical movement of the products, making the process faster and cheaper than before, giving organizations an edge over the competition by creating efficient, agile, and flexible processes.

However the biggest call to action from the pandemic for the Supply chain community is to create an integrated ecosystem which cuts across enterprise boundaries where vendors, partners, manufacturers and customers have visibility to a truly open supply chain ecosystem. Some of the large cloud providers are becoming catalysts for delivering such break-through capabilities.

Unlocking the power of Digital

The future of the supply chain aims to deploy inventory for customers sitting at any location by going completely digital and paperless in their process. Digitizing the buyer-supplier relationship is a key ingredient for building robust supply chains, and will make identifying and engaging new suppliers far less time-consuming. With technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI, supply chains could swiftly switch to alternative channels, when regular suppliers face disruption.

The current crisis is an opportunity to reset the system by creating a nimble supply chain ecosystem that is capable of weathering future storms. As the consumersand market demand businesses to become digital and agile, it is time to adopt a new vision appropriate to the realities of the new digital era.

(The author is Region Head, Intelligent Enterprise Solutions, Brillio and the views expressed in this article are her own)

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