Last week Bill Gates offered his annual list of the top 5 books to read, “5 good books for a lousy year.” I think most of us can agree that 2020 has not been the greatest year of our lives. A year that has been a defining one for many – and largely because of the coronavirus pandemic. As I write this, the virus continues to disrupt lives everywhere but it is encouraging to note that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the spirit of looking at what’s positive and what we can use in the year ahead to retake our lives so consumed by this pandemic, let’s take a look at what we’ve found out this year. Not having as profound a view on life and the world as Mr. Gates, I’ll stick to something closer to home.
Disruption is nothing new; it’s just happening a lot faster and with greater impact than ever before. The good news, though, is that it’s not only possible to survive under such circumstances; great companies can even succeed and prosper in the midst of massive disruption.
Today’s companies continue to expand to reach global markets, but this has made control of supply chains more and more complex. Companies recognize that developing and executing successful supply chain strategies can be key to gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. A key to managing a global supply chain is having strong visibility. This has in turn prompted companies to use technologies such as ERP/MRP systems, warehouse management systems and transportation management systems. Additionally, companies are utilizing hardware technologies, hand-held scanners, GPS, tracking devices, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless networks and automated warehouse systems (AGVs, Robots). Adoption of these technological tools allows more visibility than ever before. But having the data, alone is not enough; managers now have millions and billions of bits of data to decipher and sort through. Having piles of data is not enough, supply chain managers are now faced with how to best use the data to obtain the right information to track performance, diagnose bottlenecks and uncover opportunities for continuous improvement.