By Baljeet Nagi
With the disrupted supply chains of today in the spotlight, supply chain management (SCM) has transformed as a consideration, moving from a behind the scenes organisational role to a prime driver of company business. As enterprises transition to the new normal, there should be a significant acceleration of digitisation to allow supply chains to emerge in a stronger position. After all, SCM is a key component of essentially every business sector. It is not just a concern for retail, manufacturing and heavy industry. Across the board, today’s supply chains are incredibly complex, with multiple global interlinkages, especially in Africa.
Enter a scenario where the traditional ways of managing supply chains are falling short. What do you do if your on-premise systems are down and your database administrators are unable to physically access the system? SCM is about much more than tracking where stock and delivery vehicles are – that is the realisation many enterprises are experiencing right now.
The advantages of a cloud-powered supply chain are no longer theoretical. These systems are geared to leverage emerging technologies like internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and blockchain to quickly identify patterns in supply and demand in order to seek opportunities and better formulate strategies to overcome dynamic business challenges.
Business decision-makers ( some previously reluctant to embrace digital transformation) are seeing first-hand the risk-shielding efficiencies that stem from SCM when it is part of a single integrated, always-available business system, instead of being isolated in a back-office silo.
Not surprising, enterprises that have already started to transform their SCM systems, driven by the realisation that the supply chain must be part of greater corporate strategies, are enjoying greater business continuity and resilience. This is despite operating in a context of dramatic sales volatility, logistics disruption and supplier shutdowns.
In 2018, Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise modernised its finance, human resource and supply chain with Oracle Cloud to enhance its effectiveness as a regional transportation hub. The Addis Ababa-headquartered company has continued to innovate and optimise operations by adding more modules to its management system. Putting the company in a strong position to continue operating through the current crisis and beyond, the enterprise is considering IoT fleet monitoring to check, in real-time, the status of goods in transit. Included among the features is in-vehicle sensors alert to temperate change which can cause product spoilage. Such loss clearly cannot be afforded in a context of goods’ shortages and tightened budgets.
In fact, intelligent track and trace applications built on a blockchain and IoT fleet monitoring can have major benefits for government health ministries that are scrambling to distribute medical equipment, personal protection equipment, pharmaceutical products and vaccines from warehouses to hospitals, without damage or loss. Along with end-to-end supply chain visibility, endorsed approvals within blockchain avoid time-consuming email run-around to fulfil orders. Regardless of industry, the future of business will demand such transparency and accountability every step of the way.
Speaking of the future of business, it is a mistake to dismiss the current crisis as a one-off. Periods of extreme disruption can occur without any warning. Protecting enterprises against a wide variety of risks is therefore essential, especially when you consider companies’ monumental losses due to recent breakdowns in the global supply chain.
Along with being the platform necessary to deploy cutting edge emerging technology (IoT, AI and blockchain), cloud provides the flexibility required to be ready and reactive for any crisis – or change in general. With integrated cloud platforms, automatic, action-enabling insights are possible because of the business intelligence built into the system. The same smart system has simultaneous dashboard visibility across multiple modules such as demand management, supply chain planning, inventory and distribution.
SCM is as data-driven as any other business sphere. Awareness of that point is crucial, along with acknowledgement that SCM must be part of a greater corporate strategy, especially around innovation and digital transformation. SCM built on a cloud platform provides decision-makers with a clear overarching view of the digital thread running the full length of the supply chain. It is key to setting up an enterprise for business resiliency no matter what the future holds.
The writer is the Oracle director of SCM sales development and strategy for Eastern Central and Middle East Africa.