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Wednesday, 09 March 2022 15:49

The way out of the supply chain crisis is digitisation and analytics, supply chain experts say


Zebra Technologies in association with TMX, Manhattan Associates, TFMXpress, and Sociall conducted an expert panel today on the supply chain crisis facing the world, how we got to this point, and how we get out of it.

Details of the event are here. The panel was chaired by Sociall founder and CEO Dez Blanchfield and conducted by:

Royston Phua

Pictured: Zebra vertical practice lead - APAC supply chain Royston Phua

The experts began with a discussion of the supply chain issues and flow-on effects. For instance, companies can no longer rely on just-in-time protocols, nor just-in-case because of the uncertainty and unpredictability around stock availability and delivery timeframes.

Factors include service commitment turn-around times, visibility problems, driver shortages, and many things causing disruption. Customers ask “where is my order now?” while shipping companies are behind seven to ten days, or more, on delivery.

Prior to Christmas suppliers saw spikes in volumes occurring earlier than in previous years, which were then followed by states and cities undergoing lockdowns with stores unable to open while sitting on a lot of product - seasonable products, like clothing and other fashion.

Post-Christmas many organisations are sitting on high inventory levels and while there is a lot of orders there have been continual delays on containers coming through the system causing significant inventory holdings.

Additional concerns were faced with such items as signing on glass for deliveries. Drivers carry out 30 to 40 deliveries per day and have to attend many sites, sign in, undergo inductions, and participate in the different rules at different sites already. The pandemic added to this the driver could no longer hand over the sign-on-glass unit due to fear of infection, which then resulted in potential proof-of-delivery disputes.

Ultimately, the panel noted many concerns - a 12% departure of delivery drivers, lockdowns, store closures, process changes and delays.

Yet, despite this stark reality, the panel agreed there was light at the end of the tunnel in this high-tech world.

Although the world is returning to normal the experts agreed this does not mean in any way that supply chain operators could simply return to how they worked prior to the pandemic; consumers have changed, their expectations have changed, and online ordering has increased. The experts agreed the supply chain industry must continue to innovate in how it responds to challenges and overcomes them, and enhances the ordering and delivery experience.

One example of how the supply chain can respond is to ensure transparency in the distribution and shipping of packages - not only for the consumer but for stores who may otherwise be fulfilling their own customer's orders in pieces, sending packages one after the other as they receive them. This is driven by the store trying to fulfil their customer’s order but itself adds to delivery chaos, increases cost, and works against sustainability goals. The experts noted this is where technology, insights, analytics, omnichannel fulfilment and other advances in technology would assist.

Digitisation is mandatory, said Royston Phua. “Digitisation and modernisation will be critical for ongoing success,” he explained, noting Zebra Technologies’ range of hardware products and services can help companies capture all their information in a digital form across their enterprise and then leverage that captured information leading on to predictive analytics.

Travis Erridge agreed; "the only way out of this is for supply chain digitisation, and to do it quickly.”

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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