How Supply Chain Leaders Can Improve Transparency in a Post-Pandemic World

by R. Jane

on January 29, 2021

The phrase post-pandemic world has been a sort of happy fantasy for individuals and businesses alike these last several months. But in the early days of 2021, it is morphing from a happy fantasy into an attainable reality.

 

Expert opinions differ regarding when such a world will materialize. One of the creators of the extraordinarily effective Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 was quoted around the time of its initial rollout suggesting that normal life would return by the winter of 2021-22. The very same article, however, quoted a professor of medicine from Oxford University with a more optimistic assessment — that we could see “normal” by spring.

 

But what we do know is the arrival of a post-pandemic world won’t be an instantaneous transition. Some semblance of normal could be glimpsed by spring, with further, gradual normalization throughout the rest of the year. Specific timelines aside, what’s most important is that there will be a post-pandemic world, and we’ll likely start to see hints of it relatively soon. 

 

This will be a boon for businesses, but it will also mean that they’ll have to make adjustments to respond to the many changes COVID-19 has brought about. And for companies that rely heavily on supply chain operations, some of those adjustments will concern improving transparency in our post-pandemic world.

 

Simply put, getting back to business after COVID-19 will require that companies operate as efficiently as possible. This means:

 

  1. Maximizing efficiency at every possible opportunity, and 
  2. Gaining more insight into supply chain practices. 

 

The actual process of gaining insight through improved transparency can vary depending on the nature of a business or the size of the supply chain at hand. But the following steps apply broadly.

 

Identify Risks


 

In writing about ‘5 Critical Questions CEOs Should Ask for Supply Chain Risk Management,’ we discussed the simple idea that “the more exposed your supply chain is to disruption, the weaker it gets.” The biggest challenge businesses face with this is that a lot of supply chain leaders don’t have a clear grasp of what sorts of disruptions may be taking place — and are thus largely unaware of various inefficiencies that can be holding up product delivery and costing more money than necessary.

 

To address this problem, and in doing so enhance transparency, supply chain leaders will need to make concerted efforts to identify and address the risks they face. This involves gathering and analyzing accurate supply chain data, ensuring that the supply chain is aligned with goals, creating a solid risk management strategy, and investing in the latest technology (which we’ll discuss more below with specific respect to the IoT).

 

The main risks to post-pandemic supply chain efficiency essentially come from inadequate efforts in these areas. Addressing them clearly and thoroughly now will help leaders to avoid those risks and bring about the most effective possible supply chains later.

 

 

Assess Cost Management

 

 

Part of the risk assessment process just discussed involves determining supply chain costs. And this is one area where a lack of transparency or understanding can lead to significant monetary inefficiencies. Simply put, a supply chain leader without a full understanding of the chain’s costs and operations can wind up budgeting improperly and/or allocating funds ineffectively.

 

One way to address this issue beyond simply focusing more on raw transparency is to seek professional assistance with the management of a supply chain budget. Being a leader or manager in this space does not necessarily include relevant financial expertise, but a trained accountant can provide simple advice and guidance that can make a world of difference. This does not mean building up an entire internal accounting department, either. 

 

Today, the widespread opportunities through online financial education are bringing about a huge number of individual job candidates capable of providing adequate accounting expertise. The projections cited on Maryville University’s online accounting degree programs show that the accountant and budget analyst job markets are both growing, which gives some idea of the workforce at hand.

 

In some cases, hiring just a single qualified accountant for a job of this nature can be the best way to drive more efficient spending both now and in the post-pandemic future.

 

Implement the IoT


 

In discussing the process of identifying risks, we mentioned that supply chain leaders should take advantage of the latest technology. And in modern supply chains, this means implementing IoT devices and systems.

 

IoT Sense’s explanation of the IoT in supply chains does a nice job of summing up what this entails — framing it as a “combination of analytics, cloud services, and mobile computing” for purposes of improving logistics. 

 

What this looks like specifically will change from one supply chain to the next. But it generally involves the application of small sensor devices, a reliable wireless network, and cloud-based platforms to gather and assess supplier data at every level of a supply chain’s operations. 

 

This means tracking assets, monitoring vehicle performance, and visualizing production, packaging, and shipping activity — and then using the data gleaned from these efforts to drive more productive strategies.

 

 

Conclusion

 

It is clear that there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve transparency and efficiency in supply chains. Assessing risks, monitoring finances, and implementing modern technology will give supply chain leaders a much clearer picture of how they are operating from end to end.

 

This level of transparency has always been beneficial but will be all the more essential as companies and industries look to rebound in a post-pandemic world.

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