Over the past few years, everything has changed. The supply chain industry has transformed with the pandemic, economic disruption, and geopolitical consequences. Yet, our industry has proven to be resilient and innovative through the process, cutting through obstacles and making the best of the situation.
As new leaders grow into their roles and as veterans adapt to the changing supply chain environment, we must focus on the priorities that will help us succeed in the future.
Leaders can follow these top priorities to prepare themselves for the supply chain industry and its new reality:
1. Improved Data Capabilities
Supply chain firms need to be better, faster. The economy can turn upside down tomorrow. A significant city can close its ports today. And technology changes so quickly that the supply chain needs to adapt to innovation.
Data sheds light on results so we can predict and better prepare for the future. Supply chain firms continue to invest in better data resources and integration. The more effective they are at gathering operational data, analyzing it, interpreting it, and translating it to results, the better chance they will grow as a company. In addition, they are better equipped to withstand sudden shifts in the industry.
Leaders can take note of this and invest in mastering data within the industry. Then, as they begin to utilize their resources, they can lead their company to invest in more capabilities and training.
2. Closer Partner Relationships
COVID-19 proved how important relationships are to the supply chain. When everything became uncertain, not only were the economy and government unpredictable but so were procurement and logistics partners. You could be pivoting to a new strategy when you receive a memo that a partner no longer has the materials for you.
The best way to minimize damaging partner decisions is by building stronger relationships founded on transparency and communication. Leaders can develop these relationships.
For example, in the case of a supply shortage due to closure, a strong partnership would give supply chain firms a better advantage. They could have access to the limited, high-demand goods before they disappear because of an open line of communication. Leaders can also strategize with partners, making important decisions to benefit both parties.
Not only are better relationships critical during times of crisis, they are also beneficial to a healthy economy. Leaders can work closely with their partners, developing better solutions for everyone.
3. Digitize Operations
Like improving data, digitization helps firms improve operations and access more reliable insights. By transitioning analog processes to digital, we can use the information we learn.
Digital resources help open the door for automation. This reduces the physical, time-consuming tasks many employees have to do. It can save time and money on this alone, not including the benefits of cutting human error rates.
Digital processes allow for better integration, giving better access to a united sense of communication and a hub for the whole organization.
Leaders can adopt these tools for firms and train their talent in the transition and prepare them for the best results.
4. Diversifying Partners
As we have recently been reminded, diversifying supplies by size, geographical location, and other important factors can help mitigate risks. Whether an economy shuts down or suffers a sudden shortage, having the right mix of suppliers and partners can help firms survive.
Leaders can network and connect with their peers and other partners to establish some of these critical factors per industry. They can create a strong partner portfolio that foresees issues and is designed to sustain disruptions.
5. More Resilience
The future of the supply chain rests on resiliency. Can your firm move fast and withstand changes? What will it do in the face of uncertainty? A better grasp of resilience will help you and your team succeed.
Leaders can work on their self-development and emotional intelligence. Through their growth, they can lead through uncertain times or industry shifts. A leader should read relevant books, network with veterans in the field, and develop systems and processes for agile and adaptable leadership.
Once leaders grow through resilience, they can pass it on to their teams. They can instill virtue through training, team cultural initiatives, and strong leadership. A resilient team can support the entire organization when it needs it the most.
In addition, firms can utilize technology to become more resilient. They can predict how the industry and economy react in multiple scenarios by studying data sets during crucial moments. Leaders can use data to adjust operations based on fluctuating supply and demand.
Lastly, leaders can develop a response plan when crises or a sudden growth opportunity hits. Better preparation produces improved and quicker results.
6. Remarkable Talent
The supply chain industry is only as good as the people. So firms can limit or exceed their potential based on the people they choose. And if a firm has open positions for too long, it can be impossible to thrive.
Remarkable talent drives innovation, better productivity, and resilience. Supply chain firms need to invest in partners and systems now before they need to fill a role, costing more time and money. By partnering with exceptional recruiting firms, especially companies specializing in the industry, they can find top talent amidst the shortage.
Recruiters also help develop the best high-performance team you can build. They study your needs and culture and find great candidates that are handpicked for you.
Leaders should also continue to invest in their existing team. They can create a foundation for long-term employment and high morale by providing necessary benefits, programs, and educational or training opportunities for upward mobility. Great companies have lower turnovers and can accomplish long-term, high-reward initiatives.
Your talent should be agile and adaptable, ready to grow fast or make sudden shifts as the industry demands.
7. More AI and Automation
AI and automation will continue to make the supply chain industry more productive and resilient in 2022. Firms have recently sparked a renewed interest in more technology for their company.
Leaders have the opportunity to invest more in artificial intelligence and automation. In addition to digitalization and better data tools, leaders can integrate AI and automation to build a better operations model for the firm.
Leaders can reevaluate their funds and build a plan to invest in more automation technologies throughout this decade. They should also provide training and educational programs for current employees to work with these new technologies.
Firms can use this opportunity to encourage innovation in-house. Each company faces its unique issues, and if they solve them, they can enjoy customized solutions. Leaders can encourage their teams to develop ideas for better operations. They can develop the automation and technologies best suited for the firm.
8. The Circular Supply Chain
As society continues to educate itself on the importance of a healthy and sustainable world, supply chain firms should focus on the circular chain-- from raw materials to the recycling process.
Leaders can study their cycles and make informed decisions based on pro-sustainable solutions. This will help solidify the firm for the future, as more consumers and partners demand better options. In addition, leaders can strategically shift towards sustainable options by studying their firms' carbon footprint and the materials they deal with.
Not only is a better circular supply chain good for society, but it's beneficial for the firm's image. By focusing on their greater impact, they can give the company more of a purpose. If everyone believes in the firm and its vision, it creates better workplace culture and morale, which increases productivity and innovation, and decreases turnover-- all saving costs.
9. Creating More Leaders
Supply chain leaders will do incredible things for the industry, their teams, and the world. But their most significant legacy will be the people they leave behind-- especially the leaders they develop.
Leadership is not a job role. It is an intentional character trait and decision. Supply chain leaders can identify growing leaders with potential. They can invest in them and prepare them to take up the mantle one day.
Current supply chain leaders can solidify their legacy and create a better company and industry by developing leaders for the next generation.
Leaders can mentor team members and help them grow their skills and character traits. They can provide the resources needed to improve and build their career. Leaders can also train and delegate tasks so that the firm can continue to operate smoothly, even when they are one day no longer there.
2022 is a year filled with opportunities. As we reflect on what the industry has endured, how it has changed, and what the future holds for it, leaders can be optimistic, knowing that the industry will be better, more robust, and more adaptable.
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