Why Having Supply Chain Visibility During A Pandemic Is Important

By Stefan Hockenberger, Managing Director, Europe

The recent global pandemic affected global supply chains in a multitude of ways. Many manufacturers shuttered temporarily; parts were not available; or, there were limited logistics options. Demand was also a factor, especially with certain items such as toilet paper, sanitizer and face masks. A lack of visibility into supply chains can mean product loss from delayed deliveries to theft. There is also an increased risk of counterfeits entering the market that can make product authentication more difficult. With the vulnerabilities exposed, technology and other solutions are being implemented to fill in the visibility gaps.

A company does not want to experience excess product any more than it wants scarcity. Both conditions are inefficient and increase costs. Too much product incurs more overhead for storage or reduced prices to move it. Missing critical orders can cause a loss of revenue from stockouts, higher logistics costs and lower trust in the brand. There are also increased risks from the loss of product, quality damage and counterfeiting when processes and logistics are not operating normally.

Processes adapted to these strains on the supply chain. Some manufacturers were able to switch from making their main product(s) to one(s) that were needed, such as face masks instead of clothing or sanitizers instead of alcohol. Companies also began to diversify their raw materials by sourcing locally or regionally.

This shift was aided by technology that brought more visibility and traceability into the supply chain. This digital approach helped connect stakeholders from origin to consumer and improve remote access to essential information needed for agile decision making. This enhanced communication enables partners to adjust to the changing pandemic economy.

Track and trace technology, such as SAP Logistics Business Network (LBN),  is important for more than finished goods. It is crucial for identifying issues with raw materials as well as during recalls of damaged products. With batch-managed goods, companies can not only track them but link them with business activities, such as purchase orders, production orders and deliveries throughout the supply chain. Those businesses working within a serialized environment know the benefits of tracing products for regulations and quality assurance.

An Oxford Economics study revealed that supply chain leaders were able to reduce their risks from disruption. These organizations had a high level of collaboration and good supply chain visibility internally as well as with stakeholders. Being connected through communication and data has enabled the necessary agility and resilience that reduced the impact of unanticipated events.

These digital fingerprints help increase agility and resiliency to keep consumers supplied and patients safe. Companies can gain efficiencies in their systems from more just-in-time or just-in-sequence processes. They can see trends in logistics or demand and adjust accordingly. Supply chain visibility was an important asset during the pandemic and daily operations.

Learn more about Movilitas Track & Trace solutions and services here.