Supply chain management has always been an important part of the manufacturing and distribution industries. Five months ago, the entire world saw just how much we all depend upon it.
In the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone looking for toilet paper, bread, milk, cleaning supplies, batteries, or any other staple items found a major disruption in the supply chain. Famously, there was a shortage of protective masks and hand sanitizers with enough bulk supply in case of such an emergency.
I don’t know why it surprised me then when Tal Coley, the director for government affairs for AmericanHort, said during Virtual Cultivate’20 the No. 1 thing his organization focused on at the start of the pandemic was supply chain management. Maybe it was because I’m so used to hearing him talk about immigration, taxes, and environment issues in the horticulture industry that I wasn’t expecting supply chain management to be on top of his mind.
However, it shouldn’t take a global pandemic for supply chain management to be top of mind.
Supply chain management important all the time
On a day-to-day basis, having a well maintained supply chain creates healthy industries and economies. From the gathering of raw materials, to their transportation, to the creation of goods, to the distribution of final products, the more lean the supply chain, the better off everyone and everything will be right down the line.
But as we all know, rarely does everything go smoothly, even if there isn’t an emergency happening. It’s been said that the time to prepare for an emergency is before one happens. But so often in life, we don’t think about the worst that can happen until the worst already happens.
I’m reminded of two of my favorite videos from Sage featuring Del Papa Distributing. The first video from 2012 had the Texas City, Texas, company happily showing off how they managed their equipment with bar code scanning with Sage Fixed Assets. The follow-up video in 2014 showed how the company was able to recover more quickly after Hurricane Ike decimated the Texas coast around Galviston. They weren’t thinking about disaster recovery when they installed Sage Fixed Assets, but they got quick and accurate payoffs from their insurance companies, putting them in a great position to rebuild and carry on.
It’s why I’ve encouraged any ISVs joining us for Tuesdays with Practical to not focus on COVID-19 during their presentations. First, I don’t want our customers to associate a solution as being “the COVID solution.” Secondly, COVID-19 will eventually end, but other natural disasters are much more frequent. And day-to-day operations are more important.
In a perfect scenario with no shutdowns, no social-distancing mandates, and no other disasters happening, staying on top of your supply chain management simply helps your company run as efficiently and productively as possible. It can also help by getting connected with your suppliers and vendors so the chain of managing supplies grows.
How can supply chain management be improved?
The best way manufacturers and distributors can manage supply chains in this day and age is to make sure they have an updated ERP system. While an ERP system is built around supply chain management, modern ERP systems can help whether everything is normal or if the world is falling apart.
Sage X3, for example, is written in HTML5, which means it can be used on any browser on any mobile device. In circumstances when it’s hard or impossible to go into the office, whether by natural disaster or a simple vacation, having a native mobile platform instead of a static workstation works from anywhere.
It’s also available as a cloud-based version with many different options for cloud environments. This means if you’re in an Amazon Web Services environment, your data and systems will overlap over many servers around the globe for protection against disasters.
Another way to improve supply chain management is to upgrade forecasting and replenishment. While nobody could have predicted a global pandemic, having a solid forecasting model can help use historical data to predict how to help in one. Demandlink is the best forecasting and replenishment for any type of manufacturer, whether a company is a discrete manufacturer, a process manufacturer, or any live goods manufacturer, considering it uses more than 35,0000 sources of data, not including any historical data for the user company.
While we are seeing some things normalize in the economy, we’re seeing some hesitancy from manufacturers and distributors from investing in upgrading their supply chain management. There is fear of the unknown, and we understand this. But we also know upgrading your supply change management software can help when times are uncertain.