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In a world where customer satisfaction drives business success, companies build trust on positive experiences. This is why the supply chain’s strategic importance is shifting from the back room to the boardroom. 

The ability to make fast, informed decisions is essential for business agility. Supply chain managers need access to accurate, real-time, actionable data. Without it, companies stay stuck in reactive mode. With it, there is competitive advantage.  

Digitally enabled supply chain is now a priority

Digital is the defining force in the future of the supply chain. In a global economy, supply chains become more complex as interactions increase. Data points grow, and the flow of information becomes a flood. The pandemic has further highlighted how a series of fast-moving events can fundamentally change the dynamics of supply and demand.  

Technology becomes the best tool to make sense of it – which is why digital progress is the number one priority for supply chain stakeholders. They want to drive improvement in integration, visibility, insights and collaboration. By making better use of digital, organisations anticipate becoming more agile and resilient, cutting costs and improving supply chain efficiency. 

Getting data right

Data integration is the biggest challenge facing supply chain managers working in a global ecosystem of suppliers, service providers and customers. Multiple departments, systems and processes, often working in siloes with varying tasks, responsibilities, conflicts of interest and enterprise resource planning modules, create a patchwork of data points.  

This makes it difficult for supply chain managers to access and analyse information that gives them both the ‘big picture’ and granular detail. There are multiple reasons for this – fragmented data, unstandardised message types, process differences or low rates of tech adoption.  

With restricted visibility, effective decision-making becomes a challenge. Thankfully, digital solutions have evolved to solve these challenges. 4PL providers are helping organisations manage resources, technology and infrastructure – integrating and directing every supply chain component. 

Capability driven by technology

A robust supply chain system needs core elements working together to provide visibility and drive efficiency. This requires a system that allows automatic data exchange and structures communication workflows so that the right people have the right data at the right time. In addition, system architecture needs to include demand planning, predictive analytics and supplier management capabilities. 

Together, these components improve data-driven decision-making in a 3-step process. The organisation must quickly and reliably gather, store and share data from every relevant source. Then the system should quickly make sense of that data and present it in an actionable way. Finally, action should be taken based on real-time data. Take a look at this checklist to guide you through the process: 

Time is of the essence

Supply chain professionals know that almost every action they take is time-critical. In his work Perishable Insights, Mike Gualtieri-Forrester demonstrated that data-driven insights have a limited shelf life and, after time, will go stale. At that point, acting on old data is worthless. 

The adage “prevention is better than cure” chimes well here. The quickest responses prevent disruption. The next best option is reacting fast enough to find solutions to existing issues. Act too slowly and it’s too late to make any difference – but not to address issues in future.

Proactive analysis of data and pre-emptive action can transform the supply chain. Real-time visibility of robust data ensures teams are not constantly chasing status updates but instead focussed on improvement. It empowers the coordination of upstream and downstream activities, increasing speed and resilience. 

Enabling cohesive teams

The speed with which data is obtained, interpreted and acted on relies as much on the people involved as the systems in place. The collective experience and knowledge of project managers, analysts, technology innovators, functional experts and network engineers is crucial for customer success. 

It is essential to bring them together in a coordinated manner. Although they may be working in specific roles – from operational teams to suppliers and logistics partners – they must become part of a broader decision-making process. This will ensure a more comprehensive view that demonstrates connected thinking. 

Turning insights into action

The vast amount of supply chain data generated reveals valuable insights. When acted on these will create a more efficient, resilient and cost-effective supply chain.  Customers and companies will enjoy beneficial and more rewarding experiences. Achieving this takes an integrated combination of 4PL software and service that brings together insights, intelligence, metrics and the digital workflows to know your options, create scenarios and collaborate effectively. 

The most effective way to implement this is by leveraging a consolidated 4PL experience. This will deliver faster solutions and a better return on your investment, as data-driven decisions optimise performance throughout the business. 

Free Whitepaper

The ultimate 4PL guide to the supply chain

In a changing world where businesses are faced with a whole host of new challenges, supply chains have had to adapt quickly and smartly in order to keep up. Effective deployment of modern digital technologies is needed to gain real-time insights into supply chains, but knowing how to use this information in a way that enables prompt and well-planned responses to unpredictable events is where a fourth-party logistics (4PL) provider really shows its worth.

In this whitepaper, innovative logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel shares a guide on what smart supply chain management means in the aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on how partnership with a 4PL provider puts you in the best position to keep your business on track.

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