Three digitalization strategies driving supply chain resilience

Bristlecone’s CEO, Nirav Patel, explains how digital twins, predictive maintenance and tracking offer supply chain managers new ways to build resilience into their business


Labor shortages, shipping cost surges, new patterns of production and consumption have played a role in disrupting business logistics, upending markets, industries and whole economies. In its wake are logistics, procurement and other supply chain professionals suffering stress and chaos on the front line, scrambling to react to weaknesses and vulnerabilities.


Bristlecone’s CEO, Nirav Patel, explained: “In order to prepare against unforeseen and inevitable turbulent events ahead, it’s important to take proactive measures to identify the most inherently fragile areas within a supply chain.


“In this post-pandemic era, we need to challenge conventional thinking and pursue digital innovation on a much larger and more significant scale. Embracing emerging technologies like AI and SAP integration can transform and fortify companies with an appropriate level of resilience and agility to defend against future crises and unforeseen challenges.”


The following are some of the reasons why supply chains are disrupted.


Environmental forces: Natural disasters, economic turmoil and geopolitical instability impact supply chain performance by damaging transport infrastructure, forcing deliveries to be cancelled and demolishing inventory.


Value chain disruptions: Issues within the value chain can create a bullwhip effect where small fluctuations in initial operations can lead to even greater negative effects across the entire supply chain. Examples include labor disputes, limited cash flow and manufacturing accidents.


Business operation challenges: When troubles arise internally like breaches in finance, IT or HR, core operations will struggle to function. As supply chain threats like these and others remain omnipresent, it is important for organizations to employ digital tools for enhanced automation, visibility and resilience. The following are three digital strategies leaders can implement.


Supply chain digital twins: Digital twins are digital replicas of physical supply chains. They integrate with companies’ systems to provide real-time insights on sudden disruptions in supply chain performance level, letting supply chain management become more proactive than reactive. Digital twins help companies mitigate environmental risks by notifying them of natural disasters and external forces harmful to supply chain efficiency.


Predictive maintenance: This is a preventative technique that uses machine learning technologies and sensors to track how machines and systems are functioning. Predictive maintenance can foresee when a machine is likely to develop issues so maintenance can be done before breakdowns. Supply chain operations become more resilient knowing all machines and robotics are working efficiently.


Tracking: Companies can leverage social media to obtain consumer behavior analytics while monitoring industry, news and other sources for potential supply chain disruptions like a new regulation. Companies can also track shipments and fleets across land and sea. Analytics can also provide valuable insights on (and fiscally quantify) things like employee engagement and productivity. Supply chain managers can leverage this data to assess what leadership tactics are effective and which fail to drive benchmarks.


Mitigating avoidable business risk by proactively transforming and shoring up supply chains with digital technologies and methodologies is a trend forecasted to persist over coming years. Gartner predicts that ‘by 2026, more than 75 per cent of commercial supply chain management application vendors will deliver embedded advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and data science’.


Patel concluded: “Establishing multi-tiered digitalization replete with data aggregation, information exchange, collaboration, risk management, AI-powered analytics and robust cloud technologies can shore up a supply chain with unprecedented speed, visibility, synergy and control. It’s a mission critical way to maintain the kind of resiliency that will demonstrate and protect business value.”