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Overseeing the processes that take raw materials through to a final product can feel impossible. But new supply chain processes and technologies are making it a little easier.
With that in mind, here are six supply chain management tips to help ease the process.
1. Enhance supply chain visibility with the right technology
The right technology mix can help you gain visibility into products' movements all along the supply chain.
For example, analytics systems that connect to multiple data sets can show trends, so managers can shift resources to avoid problems before they occur.
Another way to get better visibility is by capitalizing on more affordable data storage that is easier to manage and scale. Scalable data storage enables supply chain managers to collect data from test projects cheaply and easily, without the need for additional hardware.
2. Embrace sustainability and accountability
Supply chain sustainability encompasses everything from environmental impact to fair trade practices -- and that's why it's so difficult to address.
Manufacturing can generate a tremendous amount of waste and is problematic in other ways. Many consumers and government agencies are pressuring companies to stop practices that are unethical or detrimental to the environment. Although there are a number of regulations to reflect this concern, problems remain widespread.
Because supply chain sustainability relates to such a wide range of issues, no one software or practice can solve all the issues. That's why the identifying the specific problems your organization faces and the technologies or processes that can help solve them is critical. For example, using slower-moving vehicles, which tend to be more eco-friendly, can help lessen pollution.
3. Consider blockchain for traceability
Companies are using blockchain to establish that they obtained resources ethically or to help boost safety and traceability. For example, Bumble Bee Foods uses blockchain to trace yellowfin tuna from ocean to table and Walmart has mandated suppliers use it to track leafy greens.
4. Trade paper for digital transformation
Transitioning from hard copy to digital can seem like a Sisyphean task, but it's often the key to supply chain management success. Web-based platforms and other technologies can provide you with a better way to keep track of data.
A digital supply chain makes it easier and quicker for trading partners to connect, as information such as tax IDs, addresses, certifications and other documents can be collected digitally, eliminating the need for workers to wait for important documents to arrive in the mail. In addition, blockchain may help boost digital transformation efforts and do away with time-consuming paper-based processes.
5. Beef up cybersecurity
As hackers become more aggressive, it's imperative to increase cybersecurity. The first step to improving cybersecurity is to define its requirements and ensure that everyone -- including employees and vendors -- is meeting those requirements.
Give everyone involved with the supply chain management system the proper training and make users aware of your company's security policies. Keep users up-to-date on major concerns and risks. When it comes to security, information is key.
6. Look for the right AI technology
If you haven't looked into AI technologies as a way to boost supply chain management, now's the time to start. Because the term is so overused and overhyped, it can seem almost meaningless. However, there can be real value in finding the AI technologies that would be most helpful for your organization.
For example, some AI systems can deliver proactive recommendations based on data and projections, execute changes and provide insights and suggestions. AI can enhance predictive analytics to better understand customers' shopping habits and to help decision-makers.
These six technologies and best practices won't solve all of your supply chain management woes. But they can give you a leg up over the more daunting aspects of the process.