The future of integrated supply chains

Businesses run on complex supply chains that include everything from buying materials to delivering the finished products and services to customers. If any link in the chain experiences sudden changes, it can throw off progress and create downtime. In turn, these periods can result in missed revenue opportunities and negatively impact the consumer experience.

Any broken links in the supply chain would be a recipe for disaster, which is why organizations actively look to improve their processes and take back control. Management approaches have evolved to take current user and consumer needs into account and ensure that businesses can effectively fulfill obligations. Let’s take a closer look at the future of integrated supply chains and how they will support company endeavors.

Heightened focus on customer requirements

Customers are always right, but they are becoming a more critical point of consideration for many business leaders. According to a survey by CAPS Research, changing customer requirements is the top external force driving adjustments within supply chains. In 2007, this factor was the fifth most important concern, while oil and materials prices were in the top spot. This focus on customer service aligns well with our key tenets of truly innovative supply chains which can be found in our 2017 Market Research Study, particularly around agility and sustainability. Supply chain operations are moving toward connecting more effectively with stakeholders and quickly responding to changing customer and market demands. Sustainability is becoming entwined with this effort to ensure the highest level of quality and reduce the impact on the environment.

Leaders are gradually understanding the value of attracting and retaining loyal customers, and supply chain processes must be adjusted to meet these needs. Organizations must maintain a reliable, sustainable approach, enabling them to consistently meet deadlines and deliver quality service. As supply chains become more complex, it will be particularly important to keep a firm eye on customer needs and how procedures can be improved.

Any broken links in the supply chain would be a disaster. Any broken links in the supply chain would be a disaster.


Tools that work seamlessly together

The software that you choose could be a major differentiator. If your tools and systems don’t work together seamlessly, it creates a number of issues within your internal processes and can complicate supply chain operations. Integrating your most important assets, like enterprise resource planning, customer resource management and supply chain management systems, can make a significant difference in creating a reliable, sustainable framework. Eco-Business contributor Inna Amesheva suggested that integrated technology will yield more detailed data regarding the supply chain, regional operations, compliance and sustainability. By operating in a more integrated way, companies can monitor their impacts and tackle complex challenges.

Organizations must have the right tools to integrate into the extended supply chain, providing information visibility and communication. Our respondents told us they continue to struggle with having the right tools to integrate more deeply with their extended supply chain. “Integrated tools and systems” was chosen as the top obstacle, with information visibility and communication – actually a byproduct of lack of integration – coming in at second. Companies that focus on strengthening their extended enterprise, increasing innovation and enabling digital processes will be able to build value-driven networks and end-to-end innovation and technology that connects people and machines to the information they require.

Measuring and acting on operational information

Supply chain players all generate a significant amount of data, which can help organizations make critical decisions. Perhaps a vendor normally gets busy around a certain time of year, for example. This type of information will be essential for planning inventory orders and managing the supply chain effectively. In our recent market research study, nearly 60 percent of responding companies have implemented process changes and are measuring results. Some are also implementing improvement cycles to ensure that they proactively meet market and customer demands.

Many businesses are still more reactive, but they are being empowered to respond faster than ever before. Handling supply chain and manufacturing operations challenges quickly and effectively is a key strength of leading companies. Metrics will be critical in revealing what areas require improvement and other constraints on the business. Leaders should use this information to guide supply chain strategies and better align corporate goals with supply chain capabilities.

Supply chains are in a constant state of flux due to shifting consumer and market expectations. Integrated supply chains are the future of ensuring assets work together to deliver critical insights and provide excellent customer experiences. To find out more about the potential of integrated supply chains, read our new report or contact Inspirage today!

Rob Knapp | Key Contributor

Rob Knapp is a recognized industry leader and contributes to the growth of Inspirage as Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Management. Rob joined Inspirage from Oracle where he was Consulting Vice President. He brings depth to Inspirage clients across supply chain management areas based on his experience advising many Fortune 500 firms.