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Money 5 Factors for More Reliable Supply Chains


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The global COVID-19 pandemic taught us many lessons. We learned hard truths about our healthcare system, our government, and our supply chain. The supply chain in the U.S. has been stretched to the max throughout this crisis. Whether it is working to get everyday essentials, like meat and toilet paper to supermarkets, or getting the vaccines to the entire country, the supply chain has been tested like never before.

The supply chain has done the best job it can handling these unprecedented circumstances, but the areas where there is still room for improvement have become evident. There are plenty of individual issues that can be addressed in the future, but the overarching challenge is that supply chains need to become more reliable.

Reliable supply chains mean getting things where they need to go when they need to get there. It means protecting sensitive cargo and not having inventory build up or get too low on either end of the chain. Supply chain consistency and reliability is something all companies, no matter where in the chain they fall or how they interact with it, want more of. Here are five factors for a more reliable supply chain.

Consistent data tracking​

Data-driven decision-making is a big-time buzzword in many industries. The logistics industry is no exception. The supply chain, like many other processes, generates tons of data. Companies that are tracking, collecting, and analyzing this data can use that data and the analytics to come from it to make their piece of the supply chain more reliable. Those that aren’t are falling behind.

Data tracking helps businesses find patterns in the supply chain. These patterns may be related to seasonality, weather, the type of transportation used, or the types of products being transported. Identifying these patterns allows companies to be more proactive about finding better, more efficient ways to do things. This data-driven decision-making is a big step towards making the supply chain more reliable.

Reliable temperature mapping and monitoring​

The supply chain is one thing, but for sensitive products in regulated industries, it is the cold supply chain (or simply cold chain) that is even more important. This is the temperature-controlled supply chain that is used to transport temperature-sensitive products in a controlled environment. The cold chain has come into the national consciousness in a big way in 2021 with its importance in the vaccine distribution effort.

Understanding and monitoring the conditions where temperature-sensitive products are stored and transported is essential. A temperature mapping exercise can be an important tool for this, as Dickson notes here. Temperature mapping is a process in which sensors, known as data loggers, are laced all around a space in order to record temperatures (or temperature and humidity during thermal mapping) over time to produce a comprehensive, 3D map of the temperature in the controlled space.

Temperature mapping is key to setting up temperature monitoring, which uses fewer data loggers but is done in perpetuity. Mapping and monitoring correctly is the best way to keep the cold chain reliably temperature-controlled to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the products shipped through the chain. It also helps companies in regulated industries stay compliant with regulations.

Transparency and visibility​

Transparency and visibility, when it comes to supply chains, means knowing where everything is in the chain at all times and how products are being handled. With the technology and tools available today, there is no excuse for not having your company’s finger firmly on the pulse of the supply chain. The more you can “see” all your products in the supply chain at all times, the more reliable it will become for you.

There are many tools that can help with transparency and visibility these days. They range from GPS devices that can be placed on shipments, batches, or even individual products to cloud-based remote monitoring systems that can use data loggers to monitor environmental conditions from miles away.

Automate and use technology where you can​

We live in a world where technology is in every aspect of our lives. It is making our lives easier and more convenient. It can also help make the supply chain more reliable. Automating the supply chain takes time, effort, and money, so understandably not all companies can do this all at once. Little increments are fine though. Using technology to make a better supply chain is something everyone should be at least looking into and making additions where they can.

New and existing technologies can help make the supply chain more effective. These include data loggers, GPS devices, and cloud-based remote monitoring systems. Other technologies that can make the supply chain more reliable right now include everything from robots that load trucks to artificial intelligence that plans delivery routes. There will be even more technology in the future making the supply chain more reliable. New tech efforts like delivery drones and self-driving vehicles are not that far off.

Continuous training is key​

In the areas of supply chain management where you can’t or don’t want to use technology, you can still have people involved in the process. In these places, training becomes incredibly important for creating a more reliable supply chain. These days, most companies know the value of training employees at the beginning of their time with the company, but fewer understand the true value and importance of continuous training.

Continuous training means regularly updating employees on standard operating procedures, industry regulations, the latest and greatest safety measures, and more. It also means occasionally testing for comprehension and retention of the information. Onboarding is important but with the speed of business in 2021, continuous training is just as important.

Conclusion​

We all want better and more reliable systems in our lives. In business, the supply chain is one of the most important systems requiring consistency and reliability. To create more reliable supply chains, not just in the future but now as well, we need consistent data tracking, reliable temperature mapping and monitoring for the cold chain, transparency, automation, and the right kind of training.
 
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