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Preparing for the Business Bounce Back [Q&A]

Preparing for the Business Bounce Back [Q&A]

We’ve been waiting for this moment for more than a year — the highly anticipated economic bounce back. That time when we finally see one of those dramatic recovery curves representing an end to the buying and selling challenges the pandemic rained down upon economies around the world.

However, according to recent research from the Capgemini Research Institute, only 23% of organizations feel their operations are agile enough to handle the evolving needs of a supply chain’s return to “normal.” I recently sat down with Michael Rabinowitz, the founder and CEO of supply chain visibility software provider CoEnterprise to discuss how manufacturers can prepare for the projected boom in business.  

Jeff Reinke (JR): If you looked at a manufacturer’s current supply chain functionality, management, or composition, and compared it to January 2020, what do you think would be the biggest differences?

Michael Rabinowitz (MR), founder & CEO, CoEnterpriseIf we look back to January 2020 before the pandemic hit, there were gaping holes and lurking risks continuously being overlooked in the supply chain due to a lack of visibility. Too many manufacturers were managing complex operations on spreadsheets with no ability to collaborate with suppliers in real-time or foresee disruption. When the pandemic struck, businesses quickly recognized the need to digitize, automate, and prepare — and it all started with establishing better visibility in the supply chain.

Disruption won’t end when the pandemic does. Take for instance the recent Suez Canal shipping container catastrophe. As a result, 76% of supply chain and manufacturing executives plan to increase investments in digital initiatives this year. Manufacturers’ supply chains today are being upgraded with tech to gain better visibility for proactivity and resilience.

JR: The COVID situation has led many manufacturers to take a hard look at reshoring at least some of their production capabilities. Do you think we’ll see a legitimate surge in U.S.-based manufacturing as a result? Will Asia see a decline in U.S.-based companies manufacturing or sourcing from the region? 

MR: 58% of supply chain professionals declare they are actively investing in localizing their manufacturing base in light of the pandemic’s wrath. With disruptive events continuing to plague the supply chain, the advantages and benefits are seemingly outweighing the costs. But before uprooting factories and reshoring production altogether, I encourage manufacturers to investigate what technology is available to provide more visibility into offshore operations.

JR: Also getting more attention due to pandemic-related dynamics is manufacturers investing in IoT-based technologies at higher levels. How could these investments impact supply chain functions?

MR: Advances in IoT technologies are empowering manufacturers to take back control of their supply chain. Newer methods of asset tracking that deliver more actionable data and RFID, Bluetooth, and NFC tags are helping them more effectively manage inventory and overall warehouse operations.

Now, when you pair those newer technologies with real-time data analytics, that will allow manufacturers to solve costly problems before they occur and realize revenue fast by eliminating costly fines and chargebacks, late shipments, and late payments. Also, data analytics allow critical information to be stored digitally and shared with anyone in the network in an instant — something that’s crucial in a fast-moving global supply chain.

Supply chains operating with full order lifecycle visibility are high-performing and set up for success.

JR: Supply chain visibility has always been vitally important. What new challenges do you see rising on this front, post-pandemic?

MR: Manufacturers can’t resolve problems they can’t see — and with only 6% of organizations reporting to have achieved their desired level of visibility, many problems are being left unaddressed. This is not only expensive, but it’s bad business — and with post-pandemic challenges already rising such as sudden spikes in demand, major transport issues, and more, visibility has never been more crucial to ensuring continuity and customer satisfaction.

One major challenge around visibility that’s actually unrelated to the pandemic is the sheer amount of data that’s rising in the supply chain. As we continue to globalize and add touchpoints throughout supply chains throughout the world, more and more data is being added to the mix. But the data is often siloed with no centralization for easy access and sharing. Finding the right tech to make this data visible and actionable will be key.

JR: If you could provide supply chain professionals in the U.S. industrial sector with one superpower, what would it be?

MR: To see into the future. While that may not be exactly feasible, taking steps now to automate processes, consolidate data, and fuel collaboration can help manufacturers solve problems before they occur. In that sense, the right tech is a close runner-up to having a crystal ball.

Having robust systems in place that eliminate lag times, chargebacks, and out-of-date information serves as a shield for your operations, allowing you to think more critically and strategically moving forward. With clear visibility into your network of suppliers and real-time data comes the ability to act quickly with agility.

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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