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Harnessing the Power of Visibility, Insightfulness and Actionability

For decades, global supply chains have struggled to develop the optionality necessary for supply chain resilience.

Predictive analytics sometimes fail to predict too well. Natural disasters create short-term supply chain disruptions. And the perpetual disruptions of today elevate supply chain risk to a near-permanent worry.

However, today’s technologies include the tools needed for real-time autonomous resilience and effective risk mitigation. Supply chain leaders can pursue this holy grail of supply chain operations through digital supply chain networks.

How? By combining visibility with insightfulness with actionability. Two parts of this “innovation trifecta” equation discover issues. The third part, actionability, helps you autonomously solve problems. One or two without the others adds up to chaos.

Chaos is what happens often in horse racing and betting. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take a chance on a trifecta at this weekend’s Kentucky Derby. But the innovation trifecta has better odds than anything you will find at Churchill Downs.

Defining the Components of the Innovation Trifecta

Before delving into the mechanics of this winning trifecta, let’s define each component:

  • Visibility: This is a real-time view of what is happening now in your end-to-end supply chain. This includes all moving parts. As operations unfold, they should not obscure any detail. Without visibility, you cannot even get out of the starting gate.
  • Insightfulness: This involves gaining insight into potential short-, medium- and long-term risks that could affect your supply chain. On the track, this is akin to looking forward to the homestretch while you’re still stuck in the backstretch.
    • Short-term: Weather and single points of failure that require adaptability
    • Medium-term: Tactical problems that require optionality
    • Long-term: Scenario planning for network reconfiguration
  • Actionability: The final component that can take you across the finish line involves making tactical and strategic moves based on the insights gained and the visibility provided. You can respond immediately (visibility) to real-time changes in demand, supply and lead time. You also can prepare optionality to handle short-, medium- and long-term changes that might happen later (insightfulness). Optionality is key for potential disruptions.

Just know that even with all three in place, the supply chain race, unlike the Kentucky Derby, never ends.

The Problem: Persistent Disruption in Supply Chains

The problem? Today we live in a world of nonstop disruption.

Real-time visibility into such disruptions is crucial. Unfortunately, those torrents of information can keep your supply chain pros in firefighting mode. You face hundreds of alerts about things not occurring as planned. This high-alert status prevents you from even thinking about the potential problems insightfulness uncovers.

It doesn’t matter if you can discover all the short-, medium- and long-term risks in the universe. Your systems and people suffer from overload.

Some may call this situation paralysis by analysis. But the constant disruption leaves no time for analysis – much less risk mitigation.

A Real-World Scenario

Consider a typical real-world disruption. Let’s say a container ship arrives at a port five hours late.

This could easily affect thousands of your orders. Of course, the first question is, “Which orders?” The next question is, “Which are the most important orders?” The next question is, “How do you find resources sufficient to deploy the multiple solutions required?”

Does your system have the required optionality?

This issue highlights the chaos caused from visibility plus insightfulness minus actionability.

Embracing Digital Supply Chain Networks

The only way out? You must adopt systems that can handle the majority of your problems autonomously. Those systems must include artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. In other words, integrate your operations into a digital supply chain network.

These technologies provide the backbone for systems that can autonomously manage the majority of disruptions.

This is a long-term process, not a push-button, immediate solution.

At first, your digital supply chain network may autonomously handle only 60% of the disruptions. But the beauty of machine learning is that, well, the machines learn.

As you continue feeding your system data, rules and solutions, the system fine-tunes the algorithms. The autonomous percentage increases to 85%. Then 90%, then 95% and then 99%+.

This progression illustrates trues actionability, where the system not only identifies and understands disruptions but also resolves them independently. Deploying actionability on issues generated by both real-time visibility and insightfulness will dramatically increase supply chain resilience. It will substantially improve customer satisfaction. 

Digital Technologies Enhance Supply Chain Resiliency

Let’s examine the advanced technologies required for your digital supply chain networks:

Artificial intelligence in supply chains: Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines. The machines are programmed to think and learn. In supply chain, AI can predict trends. Although I think its biggest benefit is making the aforementioned autonomous decisions based on real-time data.

AI enhances both visibility and actionability. For example, AI can optimize delivery routes in real-time or automate inventory management based on predictive demand analytics.

Machine learning’s impact on supply chain efficiency: Machine learning (ML) is a subset of AI. ML involves algorithms that improve automatically through experience. In supply chains, ML can refine algorithms that forecast demand or identify potential supply chain risks. ML continually improves the accuracy of predictions and the effectiveness of the responses.

The cloud computing backbone: Sophisticated AI and ML algorithms require vast amounts of data. Cloud computing provides the required scalable and flexible resources. These on-demand networks give supply chains access to shared, configurable computing resources. The technology facilitates enhanced collaboration across the supply chain network, allowing for seamless integration of information and robust response strategies.

Visibility + Insightfulness + Actionability = The Power of Innovation

Your enterprise’s supply chain success is too important to settle for a half-baked solution. Real-time visibility is a small part of the equation. Absent the other parts, you have exposed your personnel to the frustration of thousands of alerts without time or resources to respond.

You must bet on the trifecta of VISIBILITY + INSIGHTFULNESS + ACTIONABILITY.

Deploying this trifecta gives your organization the optionality to respond to disruptions with fewer staff.

The repeated feedback loops from a fully functioning digital supply chain network substantially enhance your business intelligence. As I have explained before, business intelligence increases insightfulness, which drives innovation.

VISIBILITY + INSIGHTFULNESS + ACTIONABILITY addresses disruptions. VISIBILITY + INSIGHTFULNESS + ACTIONABILITY enhances the overall design of your digital supply chain network.

Your personnel only deal with disruptions that AI escalates. Those disruptions are few.

This gives your supply chain pros the time to analyze. The time to think. The time to deploy optionality. The time to innovate in front of disruptions instead of waiting for the supply chain to hit the fan.

Are You Lost? Or Close to the Supply Chain Holy Grail?

I would love to hear how you are integrating digital technologies into your supply chain operations. How are you handling risk mitigation? Are your systems lost on the backstretch or nearing the holy grail of real-time autonomous resilience and risk mitigation?

Let’s transform supply chains of the future into dynamic, resilient digital supply chain networks.

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