Experts recommend scalable steps for digitizing supply chain

Supply chain digitization is all the rage in many industries these days and for good reason: By putting as many data points as possible into the cloud, companies gain greater visibility into their own operations, as well as those of their various partners.

Of course, achieving these goals is often far easier said than done, and companies need to take a holistic approach to handling increased digitization if they want to get it right, according to Supply Chain Management Review. This all starts with the simple decision to make a small investment in digitizing the most important part of the business, whatever that may be, and expanding from there - both "up" and "out."

Horizontal expansion, which entails adding new aspects of the business to what is already being digitized, should go hand in hand with vertical expansion - improving the technology and structure of the systems themselves, the report said. Simply put, to truly achieve what you may want, it's important to continually pursue both types of growth in your own efforts, and it all starts with an assessment of where you stand today and what you will need going forward.

Collect as much data as you can - as soon as possible.Collect as much data as you can - as soon as possible.

Getting it right
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to digitization, of course, and there's certainly no one-size-fits-all answer for how to implement it in every single warehouse, factory or other company at any given step of the supply chain, according to Freight Waves. It starts with planning and expanded visibility into your operations, but it also requires smarter and more efficient procurement and storage, management of "spare parts" in your processes, last-mile logistics and so on.

"Companies that can put together these pieces into a coherent and fully transparent whole will gain huge advantages in customer service, flexibility, efficiency, and cost reduction; those that delay will be left further and further behind," industry experts Stefan Schrauf and Philipp Berttram of PricewaterhouseCoopers Strategy wrote in recent findings.

It's worth noting, however, that no company in the supply chain is an island, and that's by design, the report said. As such, companies have to ensure their various partners are also following through on similar efforts; it's one thing to have full transparency for all your own operations, but if you have little to no idea what's going on outside your walls, the effort isn't going to be as valuable as you'd like.

Are you ready for what's coming?
Now is the perfect time to think about these issues, as we approach the end of one decade - which brought with it seismic change for the industry - and the start of one that promises even more upheaval, according to a separate Supply Chain Management Review report. Companies are likely to continue gaining increasingly valuable insights into their operations, and those that don't follow through on these efforts are likely to struggle as the industry continues to evolve.

Consequently, it's vital that you start evaluating your needs for adoption sooner than later or, if you've already begun that process, think about how quickly you can implement the change you need and what will be required to accomplish it.

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