We are well aware of the term ‘digital’ doing the rounds. In the supply chain industry also, professionals are now looking at ‘digital supply chain’ as the harbinger of a more innovative business world.
So, what really is a digital supply chain?
The digital supply chain is essentially a supply chain network whose foundation is built on web-enabled capabilities. Most of the supply chain networks that businesses encompass are that of a hybrid nature, meaning that they are a combination of paper and IT. An end to end digital supply chain is built completely on IT-enabled processes and makes use of connectivity, system integration, and the information-producing capabilities of its key components. It essentially means the end of manual operations and the start of computerized activities.
A digital supply chain is being called upon by organizations to make their processes increasingly efficient, transparent, promote customer-centricity, and encourage data-driven decision-making. A digital supply chain aims to reduce the scope for errors, and it seeks to minimize waste. Basically, a digital supply chain takes care of all transactional activities within the supply chain network, increases visibility across the length and breadth of the organization, ensures that suppliers are compliant and all decisions are based on standard rules, regulations, and policies. This and much more. In essence, a digital supply chain service across an organization aims to lessen the costs to conduct transactional operations, ensures optimum use of all business resources and increases the ability of the business to earn profits and heighten customer satisfaction; all the ingredients required to bring to the fore a competitive and sustainable business entity. We see the emergence of a digital supply chain in technologies like barcodes, GPS tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID), smart labels and the like.
If a business is successfully able to build a digital supply chain services and solutions, then it is surely one step ahead of those who are still dependent on manual or hybrid models. As we talked about, digital takes your supply chain operations and ultimately the business to the next level. But, building an end to end digital supply chain isn’t as easy as it sounds. And even if a business has already built one, maintaining it and keeping it from a security breach is a big challenge that business needs to deal with on an everyday basis.
Regardless of how big or small the enterprise is, going digital is a complicated task. The business might be dealing with a large supplier base, a number of partners and agents, spread across a diverse geographical region. This can make visibility and tracking of operations challenging. The business may have an omnichannel presence, which mostly is the case nowadays, again making it difficult to incorporate a digital infrastructure that has one centralized IT system.
Tracking of activities, ensuring quality controls, mitigating partners’ and suppliers’ risk and at the same time, ensuring the protection of critical details extremely difficult but absolutely necessary to maintain a secure business environment. Establishing one entire IT system to take care of all these needs of a business that has a presence across a diverse region is a gargantuan task.
Thus, the first step towards building a truly connected and digital supply chain network that puts the security of data as a priority is the development of a standard or an orderly process to implement and integrate technologies across the supply chain services network.
You need to clearly define your business goals and chalk out a strategy in terms of how going digital will benefit your supply chain services and business overall. Analyze the current situation and the risks involved. Once you understand the risks, you can take steps accordingly that will not adversely affect business, once the transformation begins. Going digital is a big step, so the involvement of all stakeholders, internal and external is necessary. Encourage a dialog and explain to them the current scenario, risks, and benefits of going digital.
The entire purpose of building a digital supply chain is ensuring maximum output for all stakeholders. It should be a win-win for all. Once all are on the same page, you can ensure that the digital management system will be built to suit your needs and the needs of the suppliers and other business partners.
After all the research and analyses comes the big step of undertaking a pilot project. You cannot dive into the deep end. Start off with baby steps by taking a phased, segmented approach. Once management and business become accustomed to the changes in technologies and operations, the supply chain network will evolve in terms of capabilities and returns to favor the growth and sustainability of the organization. A digital supply chain has many benefits but how business undertakes the venture is significantly important in determining a successful roll-out.
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