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ASCM Insights

Cut Through the Hype to Enable Your Digital Supply Chain


In the age of COVID-19, building advanced supply chain capabilities is more important than ever. Customer requirements, corporate goals, market dynamics and available data are changing rapidly, and all can have a significant impact on best practices, talent and agility — especially in turbulent times. To be successful at developing your supply chain of the future, the four foundational dimensions of people, process, data and technology must be addressed simultaneously. Here’s how.

Optimization, algorithmic planning, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine and deep learning are terms used daily in conjunction with supply chain operations. But how do you know what might be beneficial to your company’s supply chain operations? And how do you start the journey to acquire and master advanced supply chain planning capabilities?

Strategically focused organizations with advanced supply chain planning and optimization capabilities are leading the charge toward digitally enabled operations. They did not become leaders overnight; rather, their journey to a digitally optimized supply chain was built systematically over time while developing the capability to quickly sense changes in the end-to-end supply chain and proactively respond with optimal decisions.

The first step is building a team to support your digital supply chain. Advanced digitally enabled capabilities add value; a strong team that can maximize these capabilities takes you to the next level. As you build your team, make sure to ask these questions:

  • Who should lead the effort to digitize your supply chain?
  • What skills does this leader need?
  • How do you define the roles to enable a digital process and culture (for example, supply chain analyst, database engineers, data scientists, etc.)?
  • Do you have the required skills available within the company, or will you need to look externally?
  • How should the team be organized to efficiently run the business while driving innovation?

Step back and determine if your organization can successfully meet current operational objectives at the same time you develop enhanced capabilities for the future. Often, establishing a supply chain center of excellence can help build the necessary skill sets and capabilities.

Next, rethink current processes to gain benefits from digital capabilities. Digitization involves gaining visibility and access to operational data across the extended supply chain. However, the way you use this data to solve problems and enable new capabilities is where real value is created. Be prepared to explore and discover how to maximize the benefits by solving existing problems and tackling new opportunities.

Make sure you have the right data. The volume of data is growing exponentially, and the majority of this information resides within business domains. To develop meaningful insights, supply chain data needs to be clean, consistent, comprehensive and current. Too often, the available data is difficult to analyze because it is split between multiple reporting tools and systems — or it’s simply bad data. Achieving robust supply chain data management capabilities requires

  • the establishment of organizational roles and business processes that continuously drive supply chain data management excellence
  • technology that supports key supply chain data management business processes
  • ownership of the process, data and technology by the supply chain organization.

The final foundational component to enabling your digital supply chain of the future is a strong technology platform. To accommodate the fast-paced, 24x7x365 supply chains of today, the platform should support rapid deployments, flexible user interfaces, agile process adjustments and scalability. It also should automate and streamline data management to facilitate structured and unstructured data acquisition, cleansing, management and visibility across the extended supply chain. Look for multi-horizon, multi-aggregation, multi-functional, multi-organization, multi-unit and multi-language operations. Additionally, advanced numerical and visual analytics support real-time analysis and best-practice adoption to enable robust planning and optimization capabilities from product design to customer availability. Finally, advanced supply chain systems should provide embedded and purpose-built artificial intelligence to automate the routine and augment advanced analysis and decision making.

About the Author

Henry Canitz Product Marketing & Business Development Director, Nulogy

Henry Canitz, CPIM, CSCP, is vice president of industry and market strategy for Nulogy, a provider of multi-enterprise supply chain solutions for the supply ecosystem. He may be contacted through

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