The current pandemic affecting our daily life demands an end-to-end Supply Chain (SC) Visibility. COVID-19 showed us increasing emptied-store shelves as a result of the crisis effects; there was a lack of products, food, and various household items were scarce, people panicked, and buying patterns changed drastically.
Then, governments from numerous countries started confining their citizens, temporarily closing companies’ operations and put into effect social distancing and self-isolation for an indefinite period.
SC Visibility has become of extreme significance because of devastating consequences on most worldwide industries, healthcare systems and networks. Hospitals and supporting associations practically went out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators. The most shocking is that estimates on the escalating demand for these items are not sustained with wide-ranging Visibility, nor the supply or the inventory.
The current SC technology makes it possible Visibility through useful tools like:
· Cloud Computing.
· Transportation Management Systems (TMS.)
· The use of Barcoding and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID.)
· GPS tracking.
· The Internet of Things (IoT.)
Full Visibility in real-time is available through the Transportation Management System (TMS), in use for a long time, that moves through manufacturing facilities, all the way to distribution centres, retail channels and the final destination at the store shelves.
There are different levels of deployment of such technologies, depending on the industry and needs. You might not need to develop specific software to support your infrastructure as there is now efficient outsourcing services you can hire.
How can we explain such a disaster and the scarcity of products?
It is difficult to explain how we are at this point of empty-store shelves and hospital without the essential material to attend a COVID contagious person efficiently despite already counting on digital technology.
As the Coronavirus pandemic escalates exponentially around the world, people appreciate much better the severity of the crisis. People clustered at stores, clearing out shelves of food and supplies of all kind. This change on shopping pattern should be a vital sign of demand for SC Visibility every business expects to implement daily.
The deficiency of full endwise SC Visibility of several goods and services is considered the leading cause of supply deficiencies during the crisis; it means that organisations and governments have been slow to react to sudden-demand changes, causing supply lines fluctuation.
Stores were too belated to skim this variation of behaviour, so, people were allowed to buy unlimited quantities of goods. As store shelves emptied, people rapidly panicked and almost immediately, many other merchandises started vanishing from shelves. Daily consumption didn’t shift; only shopping patterns did.
Because stores miss the alert to react to these demand inconsistencies and to establish buying limits earlier, for instance, the ordinarily expected and satisfactory amount of supply was not enough to keep shelves stocked. Empty shelved makes people panic more.
Visibility makes it possible to get a source-supply alert and notify consumers of its availability, in real-time. Moreover, Digital Visibility could likely soften the susceptibility, whether panic buying and stock-outs happened.
However, Commodity Managers and Category Managers, and their suppliers, have been incompetent to react immediately enough to refurbish supply lines. Improve Visibility, responses to demand patterns, inventory levels, and supply options would genuinely help to reinstate normality.
Larger retailers are more likely to have digital connectivity to track store sales at a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) level in real-time to track their supplier’s products or goods in transit automatically. If they do, Visibility might be limited merely to their first-tier supplier.
Healthcare sector has a current-critical situation about the expanding number of verified cases of COVID-19. This crisis has put a dramatic pressure on hospitals and other healthcare institutions. Several countries are nowadays experiencing a second wave of the pandemic; as a result, governments mandate once again lockdowns, reinforcing social distancing and the use of PPE.
It has proved a lack of proper management to anticipated up-rising cases of the virus and lack of medical supplies and equipment. A forecasted shortage of ventilators, PPE, masks, gowns and others should have warned authorities a long-time ago of the need to boost production and alternative sources of the supplies required. Governments must demand the manufacturing of more ventilators from alternate sources. Further Visibility practices:
· To establish the location of where the inventory of theses finished goods.
· To determine the location of raw materials to make these goods.
· To make sure the suitable allocation and deployment of goods and the manufacturing capacity of 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier suppliers.
Lack of medical supplies, tools and equipment cannot be an extra concern to enable our Healthcare professionals to do their job, whilst struggling to protect them and their patients.
Conclusion: an end-to-end Supply Chain Visibility delivers the fastest available data in real-time. It buys us time to make earlier decisions to manage any supply and demand variability better; besides, it will enhance in the future the ability to efficiently react to potential disaster.
Have you set up the tools and capabilities to establish real-time Supply Chain visibility?
Photo credit: InterCityImpress / Flickr