Overcoming the challenges of supply chain disruptions means retailers need to go deep into their supply chains, fostering relationships with suppliers and service providers in order to get timely data about potential problems, says Jenny Roman, director of solutions consulting with e2open.
Supplier collaboration today is key, says Roman, whether it’s with Tier One, Tier Two, raw materials suppliers, and even logistics services providers. At heart is communicating what’s going on in your own business, as well as keeping apprised of what disruptions your suppliers themselves are facing. Close supplier relationships ensure that you’re more likely to know about actual or potential disruptions deep within the supply chain sooner rather than later.
Another key is diversifying the supplier community. Companies are increasingly looking to new suppliers, including in additional regions. “They have to have that backup nowadays,” Roman says. That’s a marked contrast from the practice of more than a decade ago of paring down the number of supply chain partners a company worked with. Now, the pandemic has taught the need for multiple sources of supply, in case one or more should unexpectedly shut down.
Those options can’t be put into place overnight, however, and it’s especially important to avoid the common mistake of seeking a solution in one business area without considering the wider view. Roman says deeper analysis of a customer’s supply chain often reveals that plugging new suppliers into alternative areas can end up creating more silos and barriers to communication across the supply chain.
Roman advises retailers to plot out a strategic vision for prioritizing which problems, whether internal or external, need to be addressed first. Digitization of processes that are still languishing in Excel, and seeking integration through an online supply chain management platform, help customers cope with the challenges of disruption.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.