Supply chains have been under more pressure in the last two years than perhaps at any other moment in modern history. The UK is still battling ongoing supply chain bottlenecks caused by Covid-19 and the raft of changes to EU/UK trading requirements because of Brexit.
As rising inflation and skills shortages prompt yet more uncertainty to come, organisations are under intense pressure to not only recover from existing supply chain challenges but also to prepare for an indeterminable future – and making sure their operations are as agile as possible is key to ensuring they are best placed to do this.
Accelerating intelligent decision-making
The organisational agility of supply chains is key to weathering any storm. Businesses must ensure their operations are scalable and flexible, to prepare themselves for any additional hurdles on top of those they are already attempting to recover from. To create a truly resilient and adaptable supply chain, organisations must invest in technologies which enable them to act quickly – both to capitalise on opportunities, and guard against potential disruption. Technologies such as advanced data analytics and AI offer real-time data led insights that organisations can use to mine their data for valuable themes and proactive ideas which, when used effectively, can accelerate intelligent decision-making.
Gartner reported that nearly 70% of companies accelerated their digital roadmaps during the pandemic and of course, many will be seeking to capitalise on their learnings during that time. These learnings will focus primarily on digital transformation, hybrid working and what these elements could mean for intelligent supply chain management, whilst many businesses must also factor in their response to supply and labour shortages, transportation difficulties and the rising cost of materials.
Having access to high-level and detailed data sources to analyse and proactively respond to these challenges, empowers supply chain managers in the manufacturing industry. They can respond quickly to mitigate any growing risks and handle operational complexities, which will allow them to future-proof their businesses and protect against harmful market events at a time when the future is anything but predictable.
The additional climate challenge
Climate change and the pressing need for supply chains to be more sustainable is an additional factor that organisations must consider, as requirements and expectations become increasingly complex. As consumer trends continue to shift towards climate-conscious goods and trade becomes temporarily less frictionless with Europe post-Brexit, some supply chains are likely to simplify and even shrink, in order to move towards a more adaptable business model. Other businesses will look to utilise data to improve the transparency and resilience of their supply chains, as customer pressure to understand where our products and goods come from grows in popularity.
New standards of efficiency and sustainability can be driven by gaining a greater oversight of a businesses in-motion operations. For example, Microsoft has been accelerating progress toward a more sustainable future by reducing its environmental footprint, boosting research and helping its customers build sustainable solutions, whilst advocating for policies that benefit the environment.
Hidden insights with enormous power
The key to success in such a challenging, fast-moving market is building a connected supply chain that allows you to anticipate shifting demands and trends with precision. In the new world of hybrid work and e-commerce, supply chain managers must almost move away from everything they used to know about historic patterns of consumer behaviour and towards an informed, investigative model, where data drives decisions and promotes agility.
This is only achievable through the use of advanced analytics and real-time data-led insights that technology can provide. There are hidden insights buried in supply chain operations that have enormous power to drive new standards in efficiency and sustainability, and technology offers a way for businesses to access these and make the smart decisions required of today’s market demands.
To achieve true agility, visibility is crucial to spot and pre-empt problems, coupled with end-to-end transparency. Events and their likely impacts must be analysed, to connect the dots between the consequences of any challenge and the outcome on manufacturers, customers, partners, retailers and stakeholders.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the real-time insights and operational overview that cloud-based systems offer can be transformational, by moving a business from reactive to proactive operations. By using tools that unify data and use predictive insights from AI and IoT across order fulfilment, planning, procurement, production, stock, warehousing and transportation, operational efficiency, product quality and profitability can be maximised.
Electrical retail giant ao.com is using cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 to gain a single view of their inventory as well as their customers and this is enabling them to continually raise the bar for their customers while driving valuable efficiencies.
ao.com needed a partner to help them consolidate and tackle their data from a joined-up approach, to make it work smarter for them. Doing so allowed them to see trends in real-time and make faster decisions. Rapid, intelligent data-enabled decision-making is crucial when considering how the supply chain will enable businesses to scale up as they grow, as well as scenario planning for how they will protect their operations during periods of uncertainty.
Becoming truly future proof
Solutions from Microsoft, including Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, can offer organisations the insights they need to adapt to an unpredictable market. Businesses can rapidly shift their stock around, make changes to where it’s held and scale up with any growth patterns they spot, to ensure they are delivering stock at the right time and to the right place, to keep up with customer demand and make the most of every opportunity.
After the last two years, agility within the supply chain is no longer just a positive, but a necessity. Harnessing digital solutions such as data analytics and cloud technology can break down silos and remove an over-reliance on legacy systems that fail to provide an overview of the entire operation end-to-end. When businesses invest in these technologies, they are investing in their ability to innovate and become more agile in all senses. By doing so, they can not only make the most of new opportunities and trends, but future proof themselves in anticipation of any future global sea changes that may have an impact on their industries and individual operations.
If you’re looking for a solution to build a resilient, adaptable and intelligent supply chain, go to the Microsoft website to sign up for your free trial or request a demo.