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Over the last several months, essential businesses that ship perishable foods and pharmaceuticals have had their cold supply chains stressed to the limit. Organizations are having to find innovative solutions to solve these new operational challenges — from air and seaport confusion, manufacturing facility shutdowns, shipping delays, and slow retail reopening. In the simplest terms, the pandemic has illustrated the processes of the past will require a complete overhaul for organizations to be prepared for future challenges.
By this point in the crisis, your company has probably tried and implemented just about every contingency plan in your manual book. And perhaps several that you previously never considered, such as alternate suppliers or shipping sites, novel delivery methods, and direct-to-consumer raw material or ingredient sales.
As we shift to the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a good time to evaluate whether newly implemented programs are delivering the expected value. Have they ensured supply or caused more risk and effort? Have any additional costs outweighed revenues generated or saved? In hindsight, would you have tried something different or stick with your original decision? A critical evaluation of your choices will help prepare you for the future.
During times of crisis, it can be easy to forget that we are not alone in the uncertainty. Other business units are likely experiencing similar challenges. Working together across previously siloed teams may alleviate these difficulties. Through the development of cross-functional teams — operations, supply chain, training, logistics, product safety, quality, finance, and others — organizations can gain value through collaborative thinking. Pulling these teams together can help businesses account for the risks associated with each segment of the company and implement the best processes to achieve greater success.
Firms are finding that now is the time to investigate and implement new and innovative technologies to solve these unprecedented challenges. Consider how you would manage your supply chain if you were able to see into it using state-of-the-art technologies, such as those provided by real-time Internet of Things (IoT) devices embedded into your logistics and quality programs to predict and prevent disruptions, before they occur. How would this visibility change the way that you think about the way you do business? It is possible that had they been implemented prior to the pandemic, they could have reduced the impact of the disruptions you may have recently experienced. Now is the time to consider implementing technology and processes that will help minimize these types of challenges in the future.
Although no one can say with certainty how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to shape the supply chain, it is very likely to cause challenges and disruptions well into the future. Use this time wisely to learn from what has worked, and more importantly, what hasn’t. Take those lessons learned and prepare your company for future challenges. Businesses that look at their technology and processes will be better prepared to weather future challenges.