A hard lesson many businesses learned during the coronavirus pandemic was that technological solutions were not merely trimmings. Previously, companies touted these features as attractive additions to their core services. The past year, however, highlighted the importance of technological solutions to daily business practices.
At the height of the pandemic, supply chains were not spared. Empty shelves and weeks-long backorders became stark reminders that an efficient and well-managed supply chain was the cornerstone of any consumer goods company.
In the pre-COVID world, the digitization of supply chains was a steady but slow shift. The change was, perhaps, too slow. In a 2020 research report by McKinsey & Company, 85% of businesses were ill-equipped to handle digital technologies in their supply chain. Daily functions were disrupted, and companies scrambled to make remote work viable. The unexpected shake-up especially affected businesses that did not have digital technologies already in place. In the same report, those that were caught unprepared for such changes — a surprising 48 percent of surveyed executives — revealed delays in decision-making and planning.
As industries recover, the supply chain is left to deal with the fallout of this disruption. Compliance violations have increased, according to an internal data report by QIMA. Supplier communication and product quality continue to suffer. Companies with low degrees of supply chain digitization are twice as likely to show these pandemic-related scars than their better-situated counterparts.
The need for digitized supply chains has become apparent across industries. As the world readjusts to a “new normal,” emerging trends emphasize the inclusion of digital tools in supply chain management.
The current global landscape maintains the necessity of remote work. Mobile solutions have become increasingly important components of a digitized supply chain. The ability to manage quality control with an app is now less of a luxury and more of a requisite for today’s supply chain managers. Real-time information on the go is a must. Up-to-date reports and statistics need to be accessible from anywhere outside the office. Booking orders and approving or rejecting shipments on a mobile app streamlines daily functions. These features give companies an online advantage, making day-to-day operations easier and more resilient to sudden changes.
Of course, digitization on the supply chain manager’s end is not the only solution to prevailing issues. Further upstream, the digitized supply chain needs features to support remote work, ensuring the quality assurance process is undisturbed in the face of another global shake-up. Remote guided inspections bridge this gap. These inspections are done via livestream, following the same strict protocols as onsite inspections. While onsite inspection continues to be the gold standard for quality assurance, guided inspections allow for the process to remain uninterrupted if access to factories is limited.
In short, digitization of a supply chain is not just the next natural step to a growing business; it needs to be built into the company’s framework. Having this system in place is integral to maintaining excellent quality assurance, ensuring factory compliance, and galvanizing the supply chain to weather another potential global disruption.