Three supply chain challenges and how to overcome them

The modern supply chain is becoming more complex by the day. Businesses continue to struggle with keeping their supply chain under control but hidden risks still pose a significant threat to the industry. Even with all the new technologies making their way to the industry, businesses must be aware of these hidden risks and understand how to react appropriately.

Businesses of all kinds must keep supply chain visibility, cyber risk and natural disasters in mind at all times. All of these factors or even just one could have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. In this current edition of the ‘Challenges and Solutions’ series, we will take a close look at the most troublesome issues in the supply chain and how businesses can avoid or plan for these risks.

New technology

Advancing technology is making its way into the supply chain, forcing businesses to constantly change systems. New services that provide an “Uber-Like” freight experience require supply chain managers to constantly hone their talents and adapt to these kind of digital disruptions. Not only with the Internet of Things be transforming the supply chain end to end, the way people utilize technology to create new processes will need to be monitored. The challenge is keeping supply chain managers and procurement professionals up-to-date and trained with all these new advancements.

Finding a solution can be challenging at first. It will take some time for a business to discover the right process that works for them. There is no one answer fits all, rather a unique, business specific training program must be developed. Some solutions may include putting together a team in charge of locating the latest supply chain innovations and coming up with a plan to train the rest of the staff. Others could be outsourced training programs funded by the organization whose employees will be taking part. Continuous training will be vital in order to remain effective in this transforming industry.

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Commentary: Managing risk in the global supply chain

The World Economic Forum defines global risk as an uncertain event that, if it occurs, can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years.
Global supply chains create both opportunity and risk. Some of the macro issues we face both in day-to-day operations and future planning include cybersecurity, terrorism, climate change, economic instability, and political discord.
More specific to executives who manage global supply chains, risk is more apparent, and on a micro-basis potentially more consequential in the short term, in areas such as but not limited to reducing spend, leveraging sourcing options, creating sustainability, political and currency instability, government regulations in the U.S. and abroad, trade compliance management, free trade agreements, energy costs, and what the incoming Trump administration will mean for global trade.
Since the recession in 2008-2009, we have witnessed a serious uptick in companies worldwide reviewing their operational exposure and then creating risk strategies in managing these vulnerabilities. Risk exposure can negatively impact margin, profits, growth strategies, operational stability and personnel maintenance.
For companies operating in global supply chains the risks are vast, convoluted and often unanticipated. As a result, we tend to be unprepared for the impacts.

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Big data analytics technology: disruptive and important?

Of all the disruptive technologies we track, big data analytics is the biggest. It’s also among the haziest in terms of what it really means to supply chain. In fact, its importance seems more to reflect the assumed convergence of trends for massively increasing amounts of data and ever faster analytical methods for crunching that data. In other words, the 81percent of all supply chain executives surveyed who say big data analytics is ‘disruptive and important’ are likely just assuming it’s big rather than knowing first-hand.

Does this mean we’re all being fooled? Not at all. In fact, the analogy of eating an elephant is probably fair since there are at least two things we can count on: we can’t swallow it all in one bite, and no matter where we start, we’ll be eating for a long time.

So, dig in!

Getting better at everything

Searching SCM World’s content library for ‘big data analytics’ turns up more than 1,200 citations. The first screen alone includes examples for spend analytics, customer service performance, manufacturing variability, logistics optimisation, consumer demand forecasting and supply chain risk management.

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Why Supply Chains Need Business Intelligence

Companies that want to effectively manage their supply chain must invest in business intelligence (BI) software, according to a recent Aberdeen Group survey of supply chain professionals. Survey respondents reported the main issues that drive BI initiatives include increased global operations complexity; lack of visibility into the supply chain; a need to improve top-line revenue; and increased exposure to risk in the supply chain. Fluctuating fuel costs, import/export restrictions and challenges, and thin profit margins are driving the need for businesses to clearly understand all the factors that affect their bottom line.

Business Intelligence essentially means converting the sea of data into knowledge for effective business use. Organizations have huge operational data that can be used for trend analysis and business strategies. To operate more efficiently, increase revenues, and foster collaboration among trading partners companies should implement BI software that illuminates the meaning behind the data.

There is a vast amount of data to collect and track within a supply chain, such as transportation costs, repair costs, key performance indicators on suppliers and carriers, and maintenance trends. Being able to drill down into this information to perform analysis and observe historical trends gives companies the game-changing information they need to transform their business.

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Overcoming 5 Major Supply Chain Challenges with Big Data Analytics

Big data analytics can help increase visibility and provide deeper insights into the supply chain. Leveraging big data, supply chain organizations can improve the way they respond to volatile demand or supply chain risk–and reduce concerns related to the issues.

Sixty-four percent of supply chain executives consider big data analytics a disruptive and important technology, setting the foundation for long-term change management in their organizations (Source: SCM World). Ninety-seven percent of supply chain executives report having an understanding of how big data analytics can benefit their supply chain. But, only 17 percent report having already implemented analytics in one or more supply chain functions (Source: Accenture).

Even if your organization is among the 83 percent who have yet to leverage big data analytics for supply chain management, you’re probably at least aware that mastering big data analytics will be a key enabler for supply chain and procurement executives in the years to come.

Big data enables you to quickly model massive volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources. For supply chain management, this can help increase visibility and provide deeper insights into the entire supply chain. Leveraging big data, your supply chain organizations can improve your response to volatile demand or supply chain risk, for example, and reduce the concerns related to the issue at hand. It will also be crucial for you to evolve your role from transactional facilitator to trusted business advisor.

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Top 25 Risk Factors for Manufacturing Supply Chains

According to a recent report from BDO USA, an accounting and consulting organization, manufacturers’ intellectual property, supply chain data and products have become prime targets for cyber criminals.

The 2016 BDO Manufacturing RiskFactor Report examines the risk factors in the most recent 10-K filings of the largest 100 publicly traded U.S. manufacturers across five sectors including fabricated metal, food processing, machinery, plastics and rubber, and transportation equipment.

The factors were analyzed and ranked by order of frequency cited.

Manufacturing Industry Serves Up New Risks

The manufacturing industry is getting mixed reviews.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Index reported that activity was up in April after five straight months of declines.

Then, in late May, the Purchasing Manager’s Index reported the first reduction in output since September 2009.

In the trenches, manufacturers say domestic demand has been solid, while global business has been more challenging. And the end customer matters: in a recent earnings call, Caterpillar’s CEO noted, “Just about any market that’s away from oil is doing pretty good.”

“Pretty good” is a modest but realistic goal for manufacturers this year, and their top concerns echo this cautious optimism. The annual analysis of the most frequently cited risk factors found the supply chain remains at the top of the list – cited by 100 percent of manufacturers we analyzed – while emerging and growing risks in cybersecurity, competition, labor, pricing, regulations and international operations are also keeping manufacturers up at night.

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Why Supply Chain Risk Management is Key to Supplier Management

While brand damage can be quite costly to the businesses whose sales rely strongly on the customer loyalty they generate from their brand strength, cost volatility and supply disruption is very costly to all manufacturers. In fact, in the latest 2015 study by the Business Continuity Institute, supply chain disruption is double in priority relative to other enterprise disruptions and over three-fourths of respondents cited that they had at least one recent (significant) disruption. The same percentage didn’t have full visibility of their supply chains.

While category management can address and even reduce supply chain risk by ensuring a chosen strategy has the right level of resiliency, prevention and agility, it cannot prevent risk or do much to eliminate the source of risk once something has happened. That can only be done by each party in the supply chain doing everything they can to eliminate the risk. In particular, a supplier needs to do all they can to minimize the risk on their end.

However, not all suppliers are as advanced in supply chain management, and in particular, risk management as the buying organization. That’s why good supplier management combined with SCRM is key. Good risk management is a combination of risk prevention and risk mitigation when a risk is detected. Risk prevention involves selecting suppliers, products and services that are low risk and risk mitigation involves taking action as soon as an indicator is detected.

A supplier is not always good at mitigating or even detecting risk in its supply chain, or may overlook an obvious sign that an observant buyer would not, which is why proper supplier management is key. This begins even when qualifying suppliers. Including risk criteria related to the supplier and supplier location gives a good indication of a supplier’s the risk level. Besides the supplier qualification criteria, supply location-related risks provide an overview on potential threats like natural disasters, political situation, sanctions or economic risk. This gives buyers the chance to take preventive actions.

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How to Better Manage Supply Chain Climate Risks

Supply chains are responsible for up to four times the greenhouse gas emissions of a company’s direct operations and yet half of major companies’ key suppliers don’t provide requested climate data to their corporate customers, according to a study produced by CDP and written in partnership with BSR.

The report also gives examples of ways companies can encourage supplier performance. It says L’Oréal works with CDP to create supplier climate scorecards that can be easily understood in the purchasing department.

Additionally, Coca-Cola and Lego Group are both experimenting with incentives and training for suppliers that aim to improve climate performance. Coca-Cola, for example, encourages suppliers to implement sustainable agricultural practices, reduce material used in packaging, and reduce the carbon footprint of vending machines. Lego Group LEGO Group is hosting “innovation camps” that the report says not only identify projects to reduce CO2 emissions, they also strengthen partnerships with suppliers.

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How to recover from supply chain disruptions

Risk mitigation is a crucial component of supply chain management. Preparing for potential disruptions is one of the most important yet challenging tasks faced by company managers, especially since there is an abundance of possible situations threatening operations at all times.

Unfortunately, damage control planning is something many companies tend to neglect. Last year, a study conducted by the supply chain management team at the University of Tennessee found that only about 50 percent of businesses have a recovery process in place to reference in the event a facility’s operations are interrupted.

Importance of response planning
Companies of all sizes are susceptible to dangerous disruptions, with global supply chains being the most vulnerable. Which is why it is surprising that the report also discovered nearly all, or 90 percent, of surveyed organizations do not take potential risks into consideration when outsourcing.

It’s understandable that managers are generally more focused on improving day-to-day operations, such as customer service, identifying cost-savings opportunities and driving revenue. However, disruptions along the supply chain have the power to severely impact financial growth and overall performance.

Between natural disasters, security breaches, safety and regulatory compliance and system failures, it is virtually impossible to anticipate what will be affected and when attacks may occur. But the best approach for supply chain teams to take is implementing strategic risk management practices that will help minimize monetary losses associated with disasters.

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5 Data-Driven Supply Chain Challenges to Overcome in 2016

Supply chain, sourcing and procurement executives are feeling immense pressure to cope with the expansion into global markets, waves of disruptive innovation, rising customer expectations and complex regulatory requirements. These are catalysts that require supply chain management strategies to become bimodal and to make a shift from tactical to strategic.

In addition to the sourcing of goods and services, cost management and internal stakeholder compliance, executives’ responsibilities will include the ability to promote and support the top line. They have to be a trusted advisor to internal business partners and will have a tremendous impact on the success of an organization engaging with suppliers, managing relationships with strategic vendors and solving business problems.

For 2016, I see leading supply chain organizations making these top-five data-driven supply chain management challenges a priority.

1. Meet Rising Customer Expectations on Supply Chain Management

2. Increase Costs Efficiency in Supply Chain Management

3. Monitor and Manage Supply Chain Compliance & Risk

4. Make Supply Chain Traceability and Sustainability a Priority

5. Remain Agile and Flexible in Volatile Times and Markets

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