The global supply chain suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Material scarcity, increasing freight prices, hit-or-miss demand forecasting, port backups, and digital transformation are just a few of the key issues causing shortages on things like cars, lumber, household products, chicken, imported goods, aluminum, and even coins.
It should be no surprise that supply chain ranks in ranks in BTG’s top 10 most in-demand skills for the first half of 2021 in light of recent trends, difficulties, and shortages. To help business leaders adapt to this unique environment, we sought insight from one of the highly skilled members of our independent talent community, Priya Kumar. Read on for her thoughts on how leading companies can optimize for supply chain resilience in 2022 and adapt to unforeseen challenges in a post-COVID world.
Meet the Expert
Supply chain expert with experience guiding clients to continuously extract value and efficiency by harmonizing operations
What are the main aspects of pre-pandemic supply chains that required urgent correction in 2020-2021?
Organizations with siloed supply chain operations and a lack of an integrated strategy suffered immensely, as they were unable to adapt quickly to supply shortages, delivery delays, and staffing deficiencies. Those companies with a lack of reliable, transparent data also experienced huge challenges. They were not able to identify operational gaps in enough time to be able to mitigate the substantial impact to the supply chain.
One of the biggest pitfalls was found in those organizations that were relying on one geographic area for most of their supply. Natural disasters, the pandemic, and political turmoil made every area problematic at one point or another. Additionally, those that relied on one mode of transportation were greatly impacted by logistical challenges.
What are the most important things that business leaders have learned to survive, or even thrive, in this era of COVID-related supply chain challenges?
The importance of strong supplier relationships has been key in supporting organizations through challenging supply chain situations in the past year. Relationships that have really thrived are ones which both the supplier and customer wanted the other to succeed. In such relationships, I found a distinct transparency of information and a collaborative partnership attitude, where both parties were advising each other on how to address various challenges.
The need for robust category strategies has been apparent given the volatility of the market. Those supply chain organizations with clear category strategies had documented plans for how to mitigate risk and execute on their disaster planning. With clear goals in sight related to supplier rationalization, spend goals and savings initiatives, these companies were able to modify actions as necessary and still achieve good results.
What are the vital components of a resilient supply chain going into 2022?
To create resilient supply chains in 2022, companies must focus on three areas: prioritizing and investing in digital transformation initiatives, capturing and monitoring robust market intelligence, and flexibly leveraging talent to solve both short- and long-term challenges.
- Implement the practice of data-driven decisions to align business goals, practices, and profit.
- Prioritize real time data, lucid processes, and accessible information to meet the demands of today’s customer.
- Continuously invest in powerful technology to reduce operational cost and improve efficiency.
- Keeping in touch with the market’s movement regularly will help you in staying ahead of trends that may disrupt supply, logistics and other aspects of the supply chain
- Industry insights will ensure your organization’s supply chain strategy stays relevant
Leveraging your talent
- Cross train employees so that resources can be flexible when the organizational needs pivot
- Empowerment through active decision-making will enable individuals to claim ownership of strategic projects and daily responsibilities
- Individuals will seek meaningful ways to add value to organizations. They will be motivated by solving internal challenges.
What are some emergency steps a business can take if they’re facing unforeseen supply chain issues?
First, understand your best- and worst-case scenario. Project the overall impact from a 3-year, 5-year and 10-year perspective. The challenge will start to look a lot smaller.
Then, brainstorm solutions with the entire team. The individuals closest to the issue often have the best ideas for solutions.
Finally, act with a measured approach in mind. Take small steps first and be ready to pivot or change direction completely if your initial steps don’t lead you to where you’d like to be.
What tips do you have for newer supply chain professionals as the field continues to adapt?
For newer supply chain professionals, it’s critical to take the time to invest in building partnerships with your suppliers, industry peers, and customers. You must understand the challenges that they face and their methodology for addressing them. And don’t just focus on your immediate suppliers—ensure that you understand your 3rd and 4th party suppliers (the subsequent layers) of your supply chain so that you can view the suppliers risks holistically
On a professional development level, be sure to find opportunities to work on projects in a variety of supply chain functions (procurement, materials management, quality, risk mitigation, category management, demand planning, etc.).
What are the keys to being resilient during difficult times (professionally & personally?)
- Creativity: Thinking outside the box to solve problems; pivoting your strategy to cater to a different supply chain/ business need
- Foresight: Assessing a variety of scenarios and predicting outcomes, having plans for how to tackle associated challenges
- Acceptance: Having the wisdom to accept what is and look forward. Staying stuck in the past and ‘the way things were’ may hold you back from what the future has to offer.
- ‘Silver Lining’ Mindset: Nothing stays the same, the world continuously changes. If we want to fulfill our desire of being happy, we have to learn to find positivity in every situation. This helps us to appreciate what we have and to make the most of opportunities presented to us.