Overcoming supply chain constraints using a digital supply chain platform

Jonas Mehrhoff
Jonas Mehrhoff
May 23, 2022
5 min read

Note on the authors

Heiner Murmann is the founder and CEO of Orkestra SCS, a logistics, technology and services company. In addition, Heiner serves as Executive Chairman for Evolution Time Critical and President of The Five Inc., and as an Advisory Board Member for both Metro Supply Chain Group and Black & McDonald Limited. Notably, Heiner previously held various senior executive roles at DB Schenker, one of the top three global logistics companies, as a Member of the Board of Management responsible for Air and Ocean Freight, and as CEO of the Region Americas.

Arnold da Silva, Senior Ocean Freight Advisor for Orkestra SCS, is head of an ocean freight consulting company where he actively advises global shippers on ocean freight strategy and execution. With 40 years of experience in the ocean freight industry, Arnold served as Executive Vice President for Ocean Freight Region Americas for DB Schenker. Arnold's passion is to conceptualize and implement innovative ocean freight solutions that transform one’s supply chain and promote a shipper's success.

Global supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, with new pressures and demands being faced by managers daily. By incorporating digital supply chain platforms, managers are able to leverage technology that is redefining future operations. Here is a look at how this is being achieved.

Those operating in supply chains are in a good position to reap the benefits of these new technologies, with 66% already focusing on service delivery models.


What is a digital supply chain (DSC) platform?

Emerging and maturing supply chain technology is a major source of competitive advantage. Digital remains a strategic imperative for supply chain organizations. In the Gartner 2019 Supply Chain Technology User Wants and Needs Survey, a majority of respondents claimed digital as their core strategy and focal point and supply chain management technology as a way to get ahead of the competition.

- Gartner

The digital supply chain consists of a series of advanced, technological processes that give managers insight into every function along the supply chain. This information can then be used to improve decision-making and streamline the supply chain process. 

What are the supply chain technologies?

  • Automation of operations: Supplier data can be captured, managed and updated automatically which speeds up processes. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT): This network of digital devices exchange data for real-time visibility. 
  • Advanced analytics: The data collected through IoT can be suitably arranged for greater insight through advanced analytics. 
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): The more data collected, the better the digitized supply chain platform is able to operate as patterns, errors and potential can be identified. 
  • Blockchain: Information is entered into the blockchain, a highly centralized ledger which records prices, dates, certification and other relevant information.
New technologies are presenting promising opportunities for improvement across the supply chain. Using blockchain in the supply chain has the potential to improve supply chain transparency and traceability as well as reduce administrative costs.

- Deloitte

Supply chain constraints  and how digital supply chain platforms can help

  1. A disjointed supply chain
    A fragmented supply chain can have widespread implications with the end result being a negative customer experience  and far-reaching implications for business. The Internet of Things has provided a solution to this disparate operation by connecting systems and creating much more accurate and accessible data. By incorporating integrated supply chain software into operations, businesses are benefiting from a seamless experience that allows for open communication channels and minimises disruption. 
  2. Unforeseen disruptions
    Covid-19, international conflict, natural disasters…all of these (and more) pose untold threats to the global supply chain. While the actual nature of the threat can’t always be anticipated, it’s possible to minimize the impact by incorporating digital supply chain risk management solutions. Data analysis is key to this, and when it is centralized across all supply chain divisions, accuracy in risk management increases. 
  3. Demand forecasting
    The aforementioned possibilities of disruption have made demand forecasting that much more difficult for supply chain management. By digitizing the supply chain, businesses are able to rely on more accurate data sets for forecast models that make demand forecasting that much more reliable. 
  4. Outdated systems
    Digital supply chain platforms are undoubtedly the solution for future operations, but a sustainable operation relies on updated technologies. An outdated, manual supply chain solution leaves managers relying on inaccurate data with devastating results. Prioritizing digital solutions means appointing individuals into technological leadership roles who are tasked with digitizing and monitoring systems. With updated technology, the supply chain data is accurate and effective. 
  5. Cyber threats
    Companies are finally taking the risk of cyberattacks seriously. These attacks are becoming much more prevalent, and absolutely nobody is immune to this threat. The financial implications are large, but beyond this, the devastating impact such attacks have on brand reputation make cyber security a top-of-mind operational concern.

    While a digital supply chain platform is key, managers have to take into account the very real risk of cyberattacks on the system. The more connected the supply chain, the bigger the risks are to data breaches. This is why digital cyber security measures have to accompany the digitisation of the supply chain platform. This keeps customer and company information private and protected. 

Key takeaways

Digitisation of the supply chain is no longer simply a dream, but a necessity for modern business and has become a reality in several cases. While silo-based supply chains were once the norm, the reality is that a more streamlined, accountable operation adopting the latest technology is more likely to survive. There are more and more challenges emerging that will create long-term disruption to the supply chain, and businesses with a digital supply chain platform are simply better prepared for such eventualities. 

When it comes to digital platforms, there are many options to consider, which is why organizations need to partner with a supplier that can provide customized software with ongoing training and support. The digitizing of operations will also require existing personnel to learn new methods and adapt to innovative techniques. But, without such change, the supply chain is likely to suffer in the long run. 

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Overcoming supply chain constraints using a digital supply chain platform

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