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Is your supply chain connected?

23 October, 2019

Changes in both consumer expectations and digital technologies continue to drive the requirements of future supply chains.

Consumer demand for improved order visibility, instant order fulfilment and personalised products or services is becoming increasingly common. Organisations have become more customer centric, expanding their product portfolios and increasing the level of transparency across their operations. Advancing digital technologies such as cloud solutions, automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are challenging the scope of what is possible in the supply chain.

However, many organisations have not yet developed their supply chains to meet the new demands. The traditional linear supply chain model is still in place, leading to reduced service levels and lower levels of responsiveness.

Three young business professionals talking and viewing a laptop in a modern office.

Supply chains need to evolve from the traditional model into connected supply chain ecosystems, providing end-to-end visibility, built-in intelligence and automation in order to operate with the agility and responsiveness required in today's world.

Connected supply chain model

Implementing 'Control Tower' like functionality, enabled by digital technology, can provide the dynamic visibility and integration needed to "connect" the supply chain.

Digital technology is a key enabler for transitioning to a flexible, agile and connected supply chain ecosystem. As the organisation's supply chain capabilities increase, so too will the opportunities for digital technology solutions. There is a vast array of solutions covering the end-to-end supply chain. While the relevance of each will be specific to each organisation, they can include:

  • Machine learning or artificial intelligence to enable improved forecasting and fraud detection
  • Smart Sensors, Natural Language Processing or Social Listening to support demand and supply planning
  • Real-time data analytics to support quality management and predictive maintenance
  • Augmented reality to optimise warehouse operations (e.g. pick by vision) and support maintenance management
  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to automate warehousing activities
  • Smart warehousing, packaging and distribution

Where to begin?

To limit risk and maximise the potential benefits it is important to develop connected capabilities progressively, layering on increasingly advanced capabilities over time. This can involve starting with simple dashboards and visualisations and over time building towards end-to-end integration, automated transactions/decision-making, and scenario analysis and optimisation.

It is important to start by envisioning the future of your supply chain in relation to the changing consumer expectations, digital technologies and business drivers. When opportunities have been identified a business case and implementation road map should be developed.

A progressive approach helps to mitigate potential issues associated with poorly implemented Control Towers or connected supply chain initiatives, which can include:

  • Trying to cover too much or pulling excessive information from across the business without understanding how it will be used
  • Inputs (e.g. data) remaining manual rather than dynamic
  • Issues or alerts may be retrospective in focus, rather than predicative or preventative
  • Roles and responsibilities may not be clearly defined across the supply chain
  • The Control Tower may be too disjointed from the organisation in order to resolve any issues identified 

As with many transformations, developing a connected supply chain is not only about technology. People and processes will also be impacted – the entire organisation must embrace the change in order to succeed.

Getting it right

There are many benefits of getting a connected supply chain right:

  • Real-time monitoring and transparency across the end-to-end supply chain
  • Improved responsiveness enabled through integrated planning and demand sensing
  • Improved reliability and reduced levels of disruption
  • Enhanced customer focus and service levels
  • Process and asset efficiencies
  • Improved flexibility (e.g. 'individualisation') and product mix

We can help your organisation transition their operations to new ways of working, making operations a strategic capability. For more information regarding supply chain optimisation or to explore any of the connected supply chain opportunities discussed in more detail, please contact Garrett Cronin or Mark McKeever.

Contact us

Garrett Cronin

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8807

Mark McKeever

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8008

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