While there have been past events – natural disasters, diseases, economic recessions – that have impacted the supply chain both globally and domestically, the current COVID-19 crisis has reached unprecedented levels of disruption. Keeping supply chains operating at their normal levels plays a monumental (but often overlooked) role in maintaining day-to-day life as we have come to know it.

Shippers, logistics companies, and other supply chain players can take the following preventative measures and best practices to better detect and respond to major disruptions, avoiding longstanding crises in their supply chains.

Diversify sourcing

The supply chains hardest hit in times of widespread disruption and operational shutdowns are those whose operations are predominantly located in heavily impacted areas. Over the years, China has become the world’s major manufacturing hub, so supply chains that rely mainly on sourcing and manufacturing from China and nearby regions face huge challenges. By implementing diverse sourcing points throughout their supply chains, both globally and domestically, organisations will allow for more robust solutions and effective responses to disruption, maintaining more business-as-usual operations.

Invest in innovation

Innovation is how mankind has continued to evolve in all aspects of life, and the supply chain is no different. Innovative technologies like automation, AI/ML enabled forecasting and planning systems, and predictive and prescriptive analytics allow supply chains to better detect a potential disruption before it happens and adapt in real-time as disruptions occur. When combined, the following examples of each give supply chains the strongest chance of successfully emerging from crises:

  • Automation can support workforces in times of increased demand, volume, and worker absences through more efficient production, fulfilment, and distribution.
  • AI/ML enabled demand forecasting and planning can optimise inventory during times of volatile demand spikes while reducing operational waste.
  • Predictive/prescriptive analytics take in external signals from the environment around them and can recommend corrective actions in real-time to mitigate risks and losses caused by disruptions.

Invest in key technologies

The most successful supply chains incorporate technology such as warehouse management systems (WMS) into their strategies and warehouses. Warehouse management systems can help you automate the materials-handling process and increase your overall efficiency. Warehouse management solutions will also help your company increase inventory-handling accuracy, improve the allocation of human resources, and better control costs through radio frequency and barcode technology.

The top performers are more aggressive and smarter users of technology because they know that the competitive advantage comes early in the technology cycle. Companies that adopt technology after it has matured are merely catching up to companies who have already mastered the technology.

Effective supply chains also regularly assess their warehouse management system implementations to determine if there are any capabilities that they own but are not using or if they should consider investing in additional technology to improve their value. Ensuring your systems and processes are in top shape will not only help you are get your money’s worth from your WMS, but it will also help you create a more effective supply chain.

Warehouse design

Having the optimal warehouse layout for your operation is key to maximising productivity. You need your products to be located in the best positions. Maximise warehouse design so that the general flow through the warehouse is unproblematic. Business intelligence is vital for discovering which products are selling well. Fast-moving stock needs to be quickly accessible so that operatives aren’t spending too much time traversing the warehouse.

A warehouse must react to changes in sales velocity. If products become more popular, of if they are seasonal, then a flexible strategy needs to be adopted so that products can be moved in and out of the prime picking positions as needed. There are many strategies that can be employed. Continuing on from last week, we continue to share our top tips for how to maximise warehouse design, warehouse storage, and warehouse layout to achieve peak performance at your facility.

Empower the workforce

Even with the highest levels of technology and innovation, the workforce will always play a pivotal role in managing crises. Empowering workforces with tools like workforce management systems help maintain employee morale, engagement, and productivity through crises. They provide increased collaboration, visibility, and direction, optimising operational efficiency when time is of the essence.

Transparent communication from management to the workforce at regular intervals is also crucial during times of disruption and crises in both the near- and long-term. Communicating best practices, providing employees with alerts and notifications as circumstances change, and being transparent in the organisation’s business condition is key to retaining and motivating talented employees.

In Summary

Life is full of uncertainty, and global, domestic, and local disruptions and crises will keep happening at levels previously thought unimaginable. These events directly impact organisations’ supply chains, which is why taking the necessary measures to account for such happenings in all aspects of dealing with supply chain disruptions and crises is paramount. Structuring supply chains with more tactical, innovative, and engineered designs will mitigate the impacts brought on by crises and keep the world safer moving forward.

The right processes, practices, and tools can help.

The demands on supply chain managers to rapidly respond to change and increase profitability are greater than ever. The good news is that effective strategies and solutions exist that support each one of the previous five strategies, and they can deliver immediate return on investment. The tools also exist. They have been battle tested, end-to-end, across some of the most valuable supply chains in the world. The way in which companies implement these strategies can mean the difference between success and failure. The tools they use should be low-risk and proven.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.