Global disruptions of the last 18 months, including the COVID pandemic as well as the Suez canal blockage drove unprecedented challenges to supply chains, with the most resilient supply chains sharing a number of key macro trends.
According to Thomas O'Connor, Senior Director and Analyst at Gartner, the top 25 organisations with the world's most resilient supply chains, as identified by Gartner, share three common characteristics: They are purpose driven, they focus on customer driven business transformation, and the supply chains are digital first.
This year Cisco took the top spot.
O’Connor spoke to Digital Nation about what can be learnt from these organisations and their supply chain management.
O’Connor says that macro-trends, such as purpose driven organisations and cross-functionality were seen throughout many organisations with some considering not only their own scope one and two emissions but also scope three emissions across their supply chains.
When it comes to purpose, O’Connor believes that this trend is expanding beyond being driven exclusively by sustainability.
“What we’re seeing is that the purpose of an organisation is just expanding, its expanding beyond the concept of shareholder returns to incorporating other aspects, whether it's around society, customers, employees, very importantly, and of course, our suppliers and other network partners,” he says.
O’Connor highlights customer driven business transformations as another key trend in successful supply chains.
“We've seen a number of the retailers in the group, whether it's someone like Inditex or Nike, or Walmart coming forward and deploying new ways that you can actually place your orders and receive those items from them, whether that's through a curb side delivery, whether that's through new pickup capabilities, or otherwise.”
The final macro trend that O’Connor identifies is digital first supply chains, with transportation a key area with which this trend has surfaced.
“The idea of digital first supply chains is really something that is advancing or building on what we've been seeing for the last decade plus as organisations have increasingly digitalised,” says O’Connor.
“We see that businesses in terms of last year 2020, when we surveyed boards of directors, nearly 70 per cent of respondents accelerated that digital roadmaps last year... We're starting to see far more capability in terms of dynamic monitoring and management of shipments, something that's so critical in our current world.”
According to O'Connor, organisations will need to rethink the operating structures of their supply chains.
“This idea around resilience and agility has certainly come to the fore. And we've seen a number of organisations needing to rethink how they're currently structured."
This is a sentiment shared by Graham Conlon, vice president and head of SAP’s digital supply chain.
“The key thing about COVID is that it's just made everything so visible, it's made everybody see the disruptions that lots of people have perhaps known about but they’ve been seen in the background,” says Conlon.
“In any supply chain [now, it’s] about how you manage those disruptions, and with COVID, the disruptions are just being on such a massive scale. This really shone a light on issues with resiliency in the practices and the processes, and on some occasions in the technologies, as well.”