The Digital Supply Chain – Where are you on the path toward digitization?

This week, Gemini Shippers Group and our partners at Allport Cargo Services USA, attended the GT Nexus Bridges Conference in New York City.   The conference brings together supply chain executives from the world’s largest companies across retail, manufacturing, logistics, and technology to discuss emerging supply chain trends. The theme of the digitization of the supply chain, and how companies can embark on a digital supply chain strategy emerged as a key driver for many supply chain leaders at this year’s event.

Many acknowledge that there is benefit to transforming supply chains to be more digital, but it is clear that many companies are early in this transformation process. Based on a survey of supply chain leaders, seventy-five percent of companies stated they believed that a digital transformation was important and seventy percent stated that they had begun this process.  At the same time, a significant amount of work is still required to achieve this as thirty-three present of those in the survey stated they were dissatisfied with their progress thus far.  Survey results tallied that forty-eight percent of transactions were still being handled manually via phone, fax and email.  Results also revealed that only fifteen percent of the overall supply chain data is accessible in a unified format and location.

With so much supply chain data available, how do shippers make sense of it all and begin to use technology as an enabler in their supply chain while at the same time continue to manage the day to day needs of moving product?

The theme of the creation of a bimodal supply chain emerged as a possible avenue shippers consider as they move down the path of digitization.  Coined by the Gartner Group, a Bimodal strategy is the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration.  Shippers moving towards a digital supply chain using a Bimodal strategy can allow for both the continuous improvement and operational excellence requirements of running the business to be combined with the future state of exploration of new technologies.

The first part of the strategy’s focus involves using the company’s existing data and infrastructure to further improve operational performance and efficiency.  In our work with shippers at Gemini Shippers Group, we think about the use of shippers’ rate and operational data to improve pricing, carrier choices, visibility and analytics.  Using companies existing data assets, a company can move toward a more digital supply chain while gaining near term wins in performance.

The second part of the Bimodal strategy involves using technology in more experimental ways.  Shippers today can think of these as innovative changes that will significantly move the needle providing competitive advantage and differentiation from their competitors.  Shippers today should be thinking about predictive analytics, machine learning, big data technologies and the Internet of Things as areas of exploratory technology that can aid their supply chain transformation.

To move your supply chain forward it is key to have the right partners as well as a Bimodal plan to deal with both short term operational and long term exploratory goals.  As our partner Tom Beckett, Vice President of Allport Cargo Services, said in one of the session, “It is important not to try to leapfrog technology inside the supply chain faster than the shipper’s team can socialize it”.  Movement towards a digital supply chain is imperative to firms looking to the future but it needs to be driven by the business unit, supported by the technology team, and encompass a holistic view of the entire supply chain and the associated processes required to move product from manufacturing to market.

By Sara Mayes