How Supply Chains can Swim through the Whirlpool of Overnight Changes

Having exposure to business development and extensive experience on project management and program management, Sunny holds international experience in consulting and IT enablement of business solutions for retail, manufacturing and supply chain logistics industries across different regions in APAC & US.

How are supply chain management companies innovating or creating digital operations to sustain operations during the lockdown/pandemic situations?
Businesses with global supply chains witnessed a tremendous level of supply and demand shock at the beginning of the pandemic. What followed was a whirlwind of overnight changes through brainstorming sessions over teleconferencing to create more resilient and adaptive supply chain systems.

Businesses and brick and mortar stores that were reluctant to shift to a digital system are now doing so in a hurry. They are adopting the digital ways of operations, implementing solutions for collaboration, visibility across vendors, digital payments, contactless processes, and automation. This will ensure that things get done on time, with complete transparency, and lower risk.

Supply chain transformation and visibility is giving businesses an opportunity to evaluate the stock tolerance over the ‘risk’ period and accommodating inventory stocks around their stores to reduce the chances of delay. They are also looking beyond Tier 1 suppliers and relentlessly searching for hyper-localized logistics partners to minimize transit time and the risks involved.

What diversification they are doing to reduce risks?
In my opinion, the companies that were heavily relying on a single supplier model or sourcing from a single geographical region, are mitigating the risks through onboarding more suppliers and from diverse areas to reduce the risk of disrupted supply chain networks. The other major transformation has been the stringent screening protocols and integration of more automated processes in the system.

Companies are identifying new ways to provide products and services that are relevant in the times of the pandemic. For instance, garment manufacturers diversified into making PPE kits or masks, some big FMCG businesses started making sanitizers and disinfectants, and so on. Technology companies are creating new ways for screening people, developing solutions to enable shift to a contactless environment, and much more. These are just businesses being agile and making the best out of a tough situation, rather than just sitting it out.

About the new concept of contactless deliveries in the retail sector.
In the wake of the pandemic, it is necessary to assure your customers that your company is taking all due measures to deliver safe and sanitized delivery packages. No contact delivery is one such direct way of ensuring the same to the customers. However, the retail sectors must have a robust, safe, and hygienic backend system to be able to fulfill the purpose of contactless deliveries.

Contactless deliveries should be backed by sanitized warehouse storage of the packages, multi-layer packaging of products, minimized number of ‘touch’ transfers through middlemen, daily screening of the delivery workforce and equipping them with all the necessary PPE and sanitization equipment with thorough training on its effective usage, and end-point package sanitization systems. The use of robotics to handle, transfer, and stock products without human touch, drone-based deliveries, and many other such solutions are now being quickly adopted. Apart from this, retailers should be integrating and promoting digital payments for the success of contactless delivery.

How customer experience is becoming the pulse of every business?
Improving customer experiences have been the pivotal consideration for every business for a long time now, but yes, the companies are becoming more customer-centric than before. The main reason behind it is the ever-increasing market competition, giving more options for customers to choose from. Moreover, due to the change in the employment situation and the global depression, the customer has become even more discerning, and price/quality-conscious. Customers are also preferring businesses that promise to provide safe delivery. In such stiff competition, it becomes critical for the company to acquire and retain customers through meaningful and enhanced experiences, setting them apart from other service providers.

What are the strategies for retailers dealing with non-essentials?
Retailers dealing with non-essential products, especially the ones with brick-and-mortar stores, are having a harder time bringing in revenues than those who have gone digital. e-Commerce, as we are witnessing, is helping businesses gain back some semblance, proving that it is the only way to sustain and thrive in the future. We are also watching industry giants announcing the closure of their physical stores altogether, indicating that a major disruption and a massive digital transformation is needed.

The retailers in any industry will be looking to grow digital and find online marketplaces to market their products/services. Secondly, they will be finding ways to connect with their already existing customer base via digital platforms to announce their presence online. Thirdly, as they go digital, they will look at reengineering their processes, optimizing their logistics and shipping, and integrating digital payment systems, etc., to make their online journey a success.

How does the retail sector prepare themselves for the post coronavirus world?
Like I said earlier, the digital will become the norm, and all retail businesses, be it large, medium, or small scale, will have to customize their own digital roadmap to be able to sustain. Of course, the government’s role in aiding the businesses, especially the SMBs will remain crucial. Singaporean government presents a befitting example for the same as they announced up to 90 percent subsidy grants to SMEs under Digital Acceleration Grant.

As consumer behavior will see a dramatic transformation, the beyond-the-COVID phase will require the retail sector to cater to consumers through their preferred channels. However, most importantly, the retail sector will have to develop a resilient system to operate and mitigate the risks of any such future crisis scenarios via investing in an intelligent automation framework that is agile and risk-free.

About the Agile overhaul of infrastructure to tackle changing consumer demands
The pattern of changing consumer demands will surely become more erratic in the post-COVID times and for the organizations to adapt to these changing demands, they will need to become more agile. An agile organization with agile teams working for them will achieve better outputs in meeting demands than those who are not.

The pattern of changing consumer demands will surely become more erratic in the post-COVID times and for the organizations to adapt to these changing demands, they will need to become more agile

To begin with, the supply chain organizations will have to rethink leadership and will have to switch to shared ownership with higher degrees of autonomy to operate in. They will need to establish greater supplier ownership and accountability in order to maintain the speed as well as transparency of operations.

In the case of agile functioning, they will have to continuously design, release, and test various processes in the market and evaluate their success rates to establish the most suitable infrastructure for both the customers, as well as the company.