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Key Supply Chain Lessons Learned in 2021

by | IntelliTrans | Dec 16, 2021 | Blog News

A look back at some of the lessons that companies can take away from 2021 and apply in 2022 (and beyond).

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” American politician and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said. “And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Emanuel’s words have been repeated in some form or fashion numerous times over the last 20+ months as organizations, individuals and entire governments faced a persistent and impactful global pandemic.

As they worked their way through the many complications that the pandemic presented, companies found themselves working in new ways, implementing new strategies and finding better ways to meet their customers’ needs (as well as their own). As with anything in life, this gave everyone a chance to reflect on what they learned during this period of great uncertainty and what lessons can be taken forward into 2022 (and beyond).

Having taken on new importance and gained new recognition during the crisis, the world’s supply chains were hit particularly hard. There’s no doubt that the tumultuous events of the past 18 months led to the massive disruption of many key supply chains,” GaN Systems’ Jim Witham writes in Forbes. “Although industries experienced supply chain fragility before the Covid-19 pandemic, the current scale and diversity of impact are unprecedented, with shortages in critical medical equipment, consumer electronics, cars and even lumber.”

More specifically, Witham says the pandemic exposed the degree to which our “global supply chains are fragile and lethargic in their ability to respond to unexpected changes in demand.” And while disruptions are inevitable, the key lesson learned from this one is that planning and responding differently will be essential to ensuring global economic resiliency in the future. For example, Witham said companies need to think beyond “100-year” events and plan for more frequent disruption.

“We have to admit that with deep global economic interdependence, more serious disaster planning must become the de facto standard,” he added. “This past year, companies made bold moves in risk mitigation by adopting a more distributed manufacturing strategy to diversify supply chains and better prepare for vulnerabilities both natural and manmade.”

Getting in Front of the Tech Curve

The pandemic also pushed more companies to turn to technology for help dealing with everything from transportation management to supply chain disruption to labor shortages. Firms that relied on legacy or manual systems to run their supply chains before the pandemic, for example, quickly realized the downsides of being behind the technology curve.

In How COVID-19 impacted supply chains and what comes next, EY writes about how more companies are investing in technology as a result of the pandemic and the role that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotic process automation will play in their futures. It also says that greater supply chain visibility, efficiency and resilience are top of mind. One of EY’s recent surveys singled out supply chain visibility as a “number one priority” over the next three years. “This finding closely matches a 2019 EY supply chain survey in which visibility ranked as the top factor in a successful supply chain,” it adds.

“With the need for increased visibility across typically hundreds or thousands of suppliers, we are already seeing a shift from linear supply chains to more integrated networks connecting many players,” EY points out. “Enabling this sea change are technologies such as IoT devices or sensors that provide valuable data on where goods are in the chain and their condition — for example, products for which temperature monitoring may be critical (i.e., frozen foods, vaccines or other medicines).”

More Digital Transformation Ahead

Let’s face it, COVID took digital transformation and put it into a time machine that effectively forced companies across most industries to sit up and take notice. The trend accelerated as the supply chain and labor shortages of 2021 took hold and is likely to continue through 2022.

“Learning from challenges experienced over the course of the pandemic, executive leadership teams are now highly motivated to implement supply chain risk mitigation strategies that will alleviate the impacts of current and future global crises,” KPMG notes in COVID-19 accelerates supply chain digital transformation, “including global warming and tackling decarbonization, leveraging digital capabilities and emerging technologies.” 


Maximizing Supply Chain Visibility and Control

IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights. 

By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.