A critical question plaguing CEOs, leaders and managers in the supply chain management world today is — how to optimise your supply chain. Currently, many supply chains run in silos because:

  • No clear vision of what’s to be achieved
  • Agendas, goals and benchmarks are not aligned between departments
  • No visibility from end to end to assist personnel to prepare for bottlenecks
  • Organisations lack the technology to convert the massive amount of data they accumulate into meaningful insights

But digital transformation can push supply chains to the next level. A well-planned digital strategy can create a tightly integrated network that generates higher value for customers.

What’s digital transformation about?

Digital transformation in supply chains is about establishing a vision of how technology can be used to create new revenue streams, drive down costs, manage risks, and satisfy customers. Three critical elements define how CEOs, managers and leaders in the Supply Chain Management environment are implementing this:

1. Customer centricity

Customers are smart—the information age has given them access product comparisons, and prices at the click of a button. Since they’re empowered and can make informed decisions much faster, supply chains have to be agile enough to respond to them.

By keeping customers at the core of their digital transformation, organisations can create happy customers and retain them for the long term.

To do this, organisations must understand their audience and their preferred channel of fulfilment. They should have real-time visibility into which orders are coming in, and even forecast demand well in advance, to avoid stock outs. Each customer is now treated as if they’re a segment in and of themselves—a segment of one.

2. Predictive business

Market fluctuations are common in every industry—regulations get more stringent, relationships between different entities get more complex, and the pace of technology creates new business and operating models every day.

A digital transformation strategy formed by intelligent insights allows organisations to address issues pre-emptively. It also makes them flexible enough to adjust to environmental changes like the weather, and define new routes and adjust operations according to changes in consumer sentiment.

3. Complete visibility

There are two reasons why a comprehensive 360-degree view and complete transparency is needed in supply chains:

  • To allow organisations to plan better
  • To gain more control and avoid lapses that can result in unhappy customers or worse, regulatory action

Digital transformation sets up a virtual mirror for organisations. It lets them see everything that’s going on within and across the entire supply chain. It gives them the power to spot opportunities, identify gaps, streamline transactions, and standardise processes.

Digital transformation aids each stakeholder in a supply chain

Instead of working in silos with different goals, each stakeholder in the supply chain works in sync to deliver a competitive advantage.

Suppliers

With automation and analytics, demand data from the field can now reach suppliers who provide raw materials to manufacturers. This enables suppliers to plan for the future, enhance the design of their products and processes, improve their productivity, deliver faster, and reduce inventory. Manufacturers can actively manage supplier risk, improve sourcing by identifying the best ones to partner within different regions, and boost collaboration, thus maximising the benefits they can derive from their vendor contracts.

Manufacturers

Digitisation and IoT (Internet of Things) enables manufacturers to access detailed data in real-time. This helps them improve the production flow, set up consistent processes, and ensure a higher quality of the product. It eliminates the need for continuous human intervention because operations can now respond purely through automation, and can be managed manually during exceptions. The workforce can perform more efficiently in a much safer environment.

Distributors and logistics service providers

Process automation, advanced analytics, and next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence are removing inefficiencies from the supply chain and improving asset utilisation. For supply chain and logistics players, this means optimisation of routes and prices, and consolidation of shipments. It also helps identify ways to reduce transportation times and even deliver on competitive propositions like same-day shipping.

Inventory and fulfilment managers

Digital transformation enables better alignment of inventory levels. From picking and sorting shipments at a distribution centre to fulfilling smaller, specialised orders, the use of data and analytics has myriad applications. Robotics and autonomous forklifts in the warehouse are now becoming the norm.

IoT makes for a smart warehouse, which, combined with analytics, provides valuable insights from the sensors to everyone in the supply chain. It also reduces the time taken to process orders and makes intelligent recommendations on adjustments to be made. Digitisation drives down the total cost of operations through smarter inventory planning and optimisation, demand forecasting, and prescribing policies and service levels for delivering consistent high quality.

Customers

Automation allows organisations to connect with customers in real-time and provide value-added services to them, like notifications and instant updates on their orders, or even recommendations on what others are buying. This maintains transparency and deepens trust between customers and brands.

Digitisation also offers superior user experience and mobility, leaving customers free to access e-commerce stores or track their orders without being dependent on any particular device or having to talk to a person.

Most importantly, this is the point where a wealth of data about customers—their preferences and buying behaviour—is generated, and this data can be integrated for use across the entire supply chain upstream, right to the point of supply.

Enabling a high performing supply chain

By adopting a digital transformation strategy, organisations can enhance the supply chain ecosystem in a standardised manner. With tools like Zoho Creator, they can develop a client-centric business model that allows them to move from mass production to mass customisation. It also bridges gaps between previously isolated departments and raises supply chain performance to new levels.

This deep innovation, collaboration, and end-to-end customer engagement model helps them maintain a competitive advantage, stay on the right side of regulators and deliver the outcomes that customers want, when they want, wherever they want.

David Rogers
Head of APAC Logistics forum

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