COVID-19, capacity and shortages will shape supply-chain operations in 2021. Supply-chain leaders need to build agility, transparency and predictability into their operations to overcome these challenges. End-to-end digitisation and optimised infrastructure will deliver the resilience, flexibility and integration to absorb future shocks – before they happen.

Brexit, trade wars and COVID have all changed the priorities of supply-chain leaders. We now need to balance cost and operational efficiency with greater resilience and responsiveness, as capacity issues continue to disrupt supply-chain operations.

The vaccine roll is – rightly – taking precedence and, when combined with the boom in e-commerce, causing a squeeze on freight capacity. Prices are rocketing, and carriers are choosing the highest bidder. All vendors are having the same issues, compounded by a global shortage of semiconductors. Kevin Brzezinski, SVP Operations, looks at three ways supply-chain leaders can increase resilience and agility to overcome these challenges.

1. Shortages and sustainability

The COVID-19 crisis and supply-chain disruption have shown the need for a diversified approach to sourcing. Accelerating demand for Wi-Fi 6 and 5G should similarly force the channel to consider alternatives at the sales order level as there will undoubtedly be availability issues. Leaders must make smart decisions to minimise costly disruptions before they occur.

2021 will also see a move to a more socially responsible supply-chain network, with policies that respond to environmental challenges by collaborating with vendors and partners to be more integrated to reduce waste and energy consumption. The offer and adoption of Technology-as-a-Service, asset management, sparing and reverse logistics will all drive sustainability and accelerate the circular economy.

2. Securing the supply chain

Organisations need to create intelligent supply chains, reconfigured for greater resilience, transparency and speed. In the process, traditional linear supply chains are being transformed into more flexible, digital, data-driven and connected supply-chain networks. This increases risk in terms of the cybersecurity attack surface – as we saw in the recent SolarWinds breach – and the physical flow of goods.

So protecting the supply-chain network from cyber and physical threats will be critical in 2021, requiring greater controls and protocols and a more robust approach to security. At Westcon-Comstor, we are looking at ISO 28,000 to identify critical aspects to the security of our supply chain and show we have policies, procedures and controls in place to manage security risks. In today’s hyper-connected world, supply-chain security is critical to manage disruption and ensure business continuity.

3. The rise of the digital supply chain

Supply-chain networks have traditionally been built for maximum efficiency and cost control, but they will be increasingly designed for resilience to absorb shocks, severe disruptions, natural disasters and pandemics. Digitisation is central to this shift, and a crucial asset of the supply-chain network of the future. Digital technology will be data driven, using predictive analytics and forecasting, monitoring and control towers to increase visibility and transparency. The adoption of early warning systems, IoT sensors, RFID, blockchain and track and trace will provide real-time disruption detection and impact analysis to ensure minimal disruption and maximum efficiency, speed and accuracy across the supply-chain network.

We are ‘future ready’  

We are a global supply-chain and logistics provider offering local and export models, Importer and Exporter of Record services, international and last-mile transportation, customs clearance, asset management and warehousing/distribution services worldwide. Our team of international trade experts, end-to-end supply-chain capabilities and ISO 9001-quality certification ensures focus on what’s best for our partners, and in turn their customers.

We’re increasing our supply-chain resilience by analysing inventory and stock. We work closely with vendors to see what’s happening in their supply chains, and are constantly identifying new transport modes with carriers and freight forwarders. And we’re keeping our people stay safe, for their health as well as the business. It’s critical that we can react with speed to any COVID cases to avoid further disruption and maintain business continuity across our supply-chain network

To learn more about the biggest changes impacting the channel in 2021, download our industry trends eBook.