Supply chain disruption is seemingly everywhere these days. It takes only one upheaval — labor strife, a significant weather event, or even a missed shipment — to throw off the delicate balance in the complex world of global trade and international commerce.
A resilient supply chain enables shippers and BCOs to react, in real time, to supply chain challenges, bringing their complex global processes back in line as quickly as possible. It all starts at the product level, with pinpoint product visibility that allows users to see where their goods are at any point in the process. Supply chain resiliency also means shipment agility – identifying potential chokepoints in the supply chain before they happen and creating alternate routing and other plans to keep shipments running on time.
Global events, geopolitical tensions, and natural disasters all have an outsized impact on how the supply chain functions. Add to that labor issues and shifting market dynamics, and it’s easy to see how supply chain predictability and reliability can be impacted on almost an hourly scale. In this climate, fostering supply chain resiliency is the key to keeping goods flowing during logistics disruptions.
COVID-19 represented the single most significant supply chain disruption in decades. While the pandemic-related shipping and fulfillment issues have long been sorted out, increasingly severe and frequent weather events are creating the potential for mini-supply chain catastrophes on a regular basis. Work stoppages during the pandemic were, for the most part, related to health and safety, but in the following years, employees at ports and elsewhere stopped working to participate in labor action. Labor-related work stoppages increased during the first half of 2023, but new labor contracts will hopefully cause these disruptions to ebb in the coming months. Another emerging trend that may disrupt the supply chain in the near term? The dissolution of over-the-road carriers. Each ripple in the supply chain has a knock-on effect. No disruption is ever minor.
Effective prediction is part of building a truly resilient supply chain. International shippers who use technology to create proactive processes focus on enhancing predictability in their operations while mitigating risks. Think about a supply chain breakdown. An urgent product is needed at a certain point in time, and a natural disaster has caused chaos on a shipping route. Shippers and BCOs protect themselves against this type of disruption by being proactive.
What does that mean? Using the right technology, shippers can create detailed shipment plans with defined milestones to measure against, enabling powerful exception alerting and handling. This supply chain visibility on the shipment end should be married to product-level visibility for a true 360-degree operational view. Technology also helps on the execution end of things, allowing shippers to work back from required in-warehouse dates to create optimal flows for shipments and quickly identify containers and products that need attention.
In the past three years, supply chain visibility technology and other logistics solutions have proliferated, but only a few key providers can accurately offer shippers focused on product and cost the tools to create true supply chain resiliency. The keys to a resilient supply chain include:
Product-level and supply chain visibility solutions give shippers a real-time, exceptions-based look into their processes. With visibility at the SKU level, users can truly understand shipment status and create the proper solution to remedy exceptions. Visibility on yet another level – trade compliance – allows shippers to react swiftly to any shipment issues, keeping product delivery timelines intact.
Supply chain resiliency technology enables shippers to streamline data integration throughout their operations. By managing export and import process data through a single, intuitive dashboard and bringing together multiple data streams from business units, regions, and divisions, users can simplify the complexity of modern supply chain processes by streamlining operational functions. When all the data is in one place, it’s easy to share product-level trade data with customs brokers and create needed customized reporting documents.
For international shippers, automating complex, physical processes such as invoicing and documentation is common sense. It enables instant access to vital trade documents, allowing shippers to quickly reference and increase reaction time to exceptions. Automation also breaks down silos within the supply chain, increasing cooperation and efficiency across the entire ecosystem. Finally, while the technology validates and disseminates key data, highly skilled supply chain professionals can once again make high-value decisions instead of spending their days on data entry. To further increase resiliency, using automated customs management solutions eliminates errors while increasing compliance.
International shipment and planning technology isn’t all the same. Shippers that embrace the best of these new solutions, which combine product-level and supply chain visibility software for a complete view of international shipments, are on their way to bringing more stability to an ever-shifting global supply chain ecosystem. Make sure the technology partner also has a commitment to innovation. The supply chain is not static. Savvy shippers focused on resiliency in their supply chains know that emerging technologies can help solve the thorny logistics issues of the day. Partnering with a forward-looking technology leader allows these companies to continue growing even as supply chain complexities increase.
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December 4, 2023
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