What supply chain adjustment would you have made at the start of 2020 if you knew then what you know now?
Focus on agile processes for managing my supply chain with an emphasis on digitization, instrumentation, and end-to-end workflow. It is important to know not only which suppliers I am dependent on, but also to be able to quickly adapt to sudden change.
—Sean Chou, CEO, Catalytic
Advise shippers to rethink their inventories, create supply chain flexibility, and consider a more flexible pricing construct for their transportation. Having a supportive, transparent logistics partner to help navigate the changing landscape has been paramount.
—Doug Waggoner, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO, Echo Global Logistics
Audit vendors’ cybersecurity practices. Holding all suppliers and vendors to a minimum level of NIST 800-171 security standards is a safe bet to follow. This year, attacks have hit shipping giant CMA CGM and disrupted supply chains in South Korea. Find and fix your vulnerabilities before hackers do.
—Ara Aslanian, CEO, Inverselogic, Advisor to LA Cyber Lab
Prepare for the projected 100% annual growth in e-commerce sales and omnichannel demand fulfillment. I would also explore a real-time item-level inventory solution to control safety stock levels.
—Philip Calderbank, RFID Consultant, BSN
Transition to e-commerce processes and operations. Consumer behavior changed over the course of 2020, even before the pandemic, so in hindsight I’d definitely have e-commerce order management and small parcel pick/pack/ship processes designed and ready. We saw challenges in meeting demand efficiently for those not prepared.
—Don White, CEO, SnapFulfil
Assess current software systems and upgrade where needed to assure the highest level of visibility. Visibility is the key to a successful supply chain. The ability to see freight arriving at ports and borders is critical to keeping goods moving to their destinations.
—Glenn P. Clinger III, Supply Chain Consultant, Clinger Group LLC
Businesses with global supply chains should invest in digital technologies and services to support international logistics execution, tracking, planning, collaboration, and freight spend management. Over-reliance on manual processes and spreadsheets was exposed as a critical weakness in worldwide supply chains in 2020.
—Monica Truelsch, Senior Director, Product Management, Infor
We would have done two things differently. First, we would have further diversified and nearshored our supply chain, which would have enabled us to avoid any delays or interruptions in our operations due to COVID. Second, we would have implemented technology that heightened visibility into our inventory and boosted operational efficiency sooner, which would have made planning and budgeting throughout the rest of the year easier.
—Gabe Grifoni, Founder & CEO, Rufus Labs
I would have procured more fixed capacity under long-term agreements. 2019 was difficult for air freight. As 2020 was expected to be similar with global economic growth slowing, we reduced our fixed capacity and relied on the spot market to meet customer demand. COVID changed everything.
—Neel Jones Shah, EVP and Global Head of Airfreight, Flexport
Focus more on interdependencies vs. individual tasks in supply chains. It has become clearer as systems have been pressure tested that if something goes wrong in one piece of the operation it can hold the rest hostage. You need a holistic view that lets you rebalance resources as needed.
—Lior Elazary, CEO & Chairman, inVia Robotics
Ensure all logistics processes are defined, documented, and robust enough to sustain disruptions with multiple contingency plans to guarantee continuity of supply within respective supply chains. In addition, I would continue to emphasize strategic relations with carriers/suppliers to ensure the flow of goods in constrained market conditions.
—Johnathan Foster, Principal Consultant, Proxima Group
Investing in business applications and technology tools like analytics to predict sales would have helped businesses gauge supply chain shortages and inventory overstock. Leveraging data to anticipate supply and demand and adjusting production levels lowers cost and increases efficiency, which would have benefited supply chains this year.
—Pete Zimmerman, North American Software Sales Manager, VAI
Get more visibility into the earlier parts of the supply chain. With dramatic shifts in demand patterns, having visibility into the manufacturers and real-time tracking of inbound shipments would have helped to better respond to these rapid changes in demand.
—Krishna Prasad, Chief Customer Officer, UST Global
I would scout second-source suppliers across multiple regions—lined up and ready to be activated as needed. Being able to quickly and confidently onboard new suppliers whenever a primary supplier faces a lockdown, shortage, or cannot move goods across a border, is priceless to help you ensure robust delivery capability.
—Enno Lueckel, VP, scoutbee
One adjustment: Given the pandemic and its impact on human capital, a strong investment in automating processes and reducing human dependencies.
—Gabriel Ruz, Co-Founder, Magaya Corporation
Make sure operations teams are ready to adapt with any change that could happen within the warehouse. Communication is key throughout any organization to allow for change—big or small. Preparing for change is just the start when it comes to overcoming unforeseen challenges.
—Jeff Huerta, Senior Vice President, Sales, Vecna Robotics
I would have suggested that warehouses increase safety stock. Supply chains were pushed to be lean, stripping out as much safety stock as possible to satisfy misguided business measures, but the pandemic has demonstrated that running our supply chains "too lean" is a mistake.
—Guy Courtin, Head of Global Alliances, 6 River Systems
Implement pickup logistics optimization sooner. Since 27% of Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) orders are being collected via curbside pickup, the need for an updated approach was sped up by the pandemic. However, the workflow implemented by pickup logistics optimization could have been put in place even earlier, especially knowing what we know now.
—Satish Natarajan, CEO and Co-Founder, DispatchTrack
Advise our digitally native and omnichannel brand partners to buy inventory earlier, spread promotions out over weeks as opposed to days, and partner with regional carriers. This reduces fulfillment and delivery costs.
—Brian Lemerise, President and Chief Operating Officer, Quiet 3PF
I would have deepened the relationships with key suppliers. It is of course, critical to put communication channels in place that provide clarity as to our exact needs, because building a supply chain that can flex is now critical.
—Rich Bolte, Chairman & CEO, BDP International
In a recent study from Outrider, 91% of distribution center workers said their company has increased its investment in automation technologies since the start of COVID-19. Had these investments been made earlier, we would’ve seen smoother operations amid drastic demand fluctuations.
—Andrew Smith, Founder and CEO, Outrider
As a 3PL professional, there is a duty to protect employees, their business and their customers’ businesses, while offering expected service levels.
Empower social distancing in office and warehouse operations. Use two-way communications, cameras, monitors, sign on glass and imaging technology. Implement voice technology, rent/buy AMRs or AGVs.
—Joe E. Couto, Chief Executive Officer; Africa, Asia Pacific & Latin America; Körber Supply Chain Software
2020 has taught us that a dynamic approach to managing freight is essential to being successful in a rapidly evolving environment. The availability of data and technology evolves the way we approach securing capacity, reduces the need for an annual RFP, and leads to more sustainable shipper, carrier relationships.
—Heather Mueller, Chief Operating Officer, Breakthrough
Start hiring earlier in anticipation of the volume surge we experienced. In April, we started seeing peak season-level volumes, largely driven by the rise in e-commerce as customers complied with stay-at-home orders. Since then, DHL has created around 3,000 new jobs to accommodate this growth.
—Greg Hewitt, CEO, DHL Express U.S.
I would have doubled down on recruiting efforts, justifying the upfront cost as a long-term investment. Labor shortages facing the industry will linger long after life returns to normal.
—Frank Granieri, COO, Supply Chain Solutions, A. Duie Pyle
In hindsight, I would have expanded our plans for hiring and resource allocation. Like many companies, we planned for challenging scenarios when the pandemic hit. We didn’t prepare for the possibility of rapid growth, though. In 2020, we’ve grown our business significantly and onboarded more than 65 new employees.
—Oren Zaslansky, CEO and Founder, Flock Freight
Have a great answer to a good question?
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If you were writing a book about supply chain management in 2020, what would you call it?
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