The bomb that no one saw coming, COVID-19 has shaken supply-chain management as we know it. As the businesses that endured continue to stabilize, many are rethinking how their supply chains behave and perform.
A need for greater visibility and exception management has been thrust to the forefront. Here are some consequential shifts we expect to see.
“What if” planning. Best-in-class organizations embraced flexibility and came up with a Plan B to get shipments to destinations around the world. Many conducted network optimization studies to ensure their shipping and manufacturing points were in the right places and they could continue operating despite global volatility.
While this type of study rarely upends an organization’s entire footprint, it leads to greater shipping visibility and helps prepare for disruption scenarios if one site slows or shuts down.
Rise of smaller shippers. Technology advances have leveled the playing field and created more opportunities for smaller shippers to compete in the market at a broader scale. Winning business still comes down to availability, pricing and credibility, but new tools have increased visibility and given more shippers access to the same information at the same time.
One drawback for smaller shippers: If the market tightens, larger logistics organizations typically prevail as they have greater access to container ships.
All eyes on service levels. Improved visibility levels reveal when shipments are retrieved, where they’re moving and when they’re dropped off and delivered. Real-time tracking and tracing adds cost but also aids in recovering shipments and allows customer service groups to better monitor shipments and quickly answer questions if something goes awry.
The ongoing Amazon effect. As online shoppers have become accustomed to inventory visibility and shipment tracking, demand for greater visibility has too grown in the supply-chain industry. The next generation of technology will provide businesses with visibility similar to what consumers have enjoyed in recent years.
In 2021 and beyond, expect to see visibility and risk management remain top-of-mind for the supply chain. Global volatility is driving new initiatives that can better position shippers to fortify their business models while improving customer service levels.
Charlie Midkiff is senior vice president of global managed logistics services at Odyssey Logistics & Technology.
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