After many months of market shakeups and lifestyle changes, COVID-19 continues to alter people’s lives across the globe. Yes, many businesses have reopened, people are going to the movies and attending sporting events, and children in numerous communities are back in school. But supply chain operations are still feeling the pain.
Supply chains have been interrupted disastrously. However, the lasting changes brought about by the pandemic may guide our networks in a new, positive direction. One such shift is the heightened focus on data. Here are four ways to take advantage of this evolution:
1. Improve risk assessment. When looking at supply chain continuity planning in the early days of the pandemic, ASCM blog contributor Roger Shaw advised that managers should work to diagnose areas of risk exposure and then research and implement strategies to mitigate them. This essentially is a description of the use of data for business optimization. A comprehensive effort to gather data about everything from delivery time to inventory management to employee performance can give a supply chain manager a clear idea of what inefficiencies and operational risks may be lingering after the pandemic. This insight, in turn, can generate clear and effective strategies for getting business back up to speed.
2. Revamp inventory management. Inventory management will be a particularly important area for most supply chains in the aftermath of the pandemic. The difficulties of 2020 hit every company differently, but it is more or less a universal truth that resources now are as precious as ever. Some companies will be operating with tighter margins and others may have suffered inventory waste because of interruptions. Going forward, the ability to track and manage inventory more effectively will be invaluable. This can be accomplished by fully embracing tracking, data and analytics.
3. Grow logistician jobs. Another factor to consider is how the need for data will affect jobs and company structures. Data analytics was already becoming an explosively popular field before the pandemic, and it was attracting not only undergraduate students but also graduates and professionals seeking a career shift. To put a number on it, online university assessments of data analytics careers suggest that logistician job growth will be about 7% between 2016 and 2026. This means that there simply will be more skilled data analysts joining the professional ranks in supply chain businesses. With data looking to be even more important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these new professionals will be all the more valuable.
4. Expand with 5G. As a final point, 5G’s impact on supply chains is not to be overlooked. Of course, 5G is not a direct result of the pandemic, but it is an interesting factor to consider within its context. Businesses paused or reduced activity at a time when 5G was in its infancy. Now, as they are getting back up to speed, 5G networks are spreading, maturing and becoming much more useful. These networks are poised to vastly improve companies’ abilities to track inventory in real time, monitor shipping operations and — crucially — gather data. With 5G effectively enabling better data operations across the board, supply chains that don’t take advantage will fall behind.