When you work in the supply chain and have dealings with your company's various partners and other stakeholders, you are taking part in a sometimes delicate relationship that is contingent on collaboration and long-term success. Occasionally, it's easy to maintain a strong, happy relationship. Other times, the road is considerably rockier.

The question, then, is how to maximize the good times and keep the hiccups to a minimum. The following suggestions should help:

1) Keep communication channels wide open

Your primary focus in any supplier relationship should be to never leave one another in the dark, so communicating on a regular basis is key, according to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply. Whether it's being prompt when you reply to emails, being able to get someone on the phone quickly or convening meetings on short notice, all involved need to be flexible on this front.

2) Don't act like you're the center of the universe

On the other hand, you also have to recognize that, in the vast majority of cases, you will not be another company's only partner in the supply chain, and cannot make unreasonable demands for time or attention, CIPS said. Odds are good that everyone is working to solve problems to the best of their abilities, so you can't expect — let alone demand — immediate fixes.

Make sure your supply chain partnerships never get contentious.Make sure your supply chain partnerships never get contentious.

3) Get on the same page with technology

To prevent those kinds of hang-ups from happening in the first place, it's a good idea to be sharing data and working on the same platforms as much as you possibly can, according to Paramount WorkPlace. That way, you have more transparency and collective vision, allowing you to make all your communications and collaborations easier to get through.

4) Know what's on paper — and what isn't

Often, over the course of lengthy relationships, you may come to understandings about better ways to work or meet each other's needs, but sometimes those expectations can't be met, Paramount WorkPlace added. As such, you may need to keep in mind what's actually included in the contract you signed initially, and what has been tacked on to that agreement over time.

5) Look at how you're performing

As with any partnership (i.e. like what your company has with its own employees), you would be wise to sit down and review how your supplier relationship is going, Paramount WorkPlace further advised. Take a look at what's working, what needs to be tweaked, and where you're headed next, and you may find better ways to stay on the same page.

6) Conduct regular risk assessments

Along similar lines, you should also look at how risks have evolved over time that could create problems for your partnership, and move to address them, according to PurchaseControl. Here, too, it's just about being able to respond appropriately to any potential emerging issues.

7) Always strive to pay on time

There's often no better way to keep supply chain partners happy than to ensure cash flow is predictable and on-schedule, Purchase Control warned. Just as you expect your partners to pay you on time and in full, you should always strive to do the same in the other direction.

For as long as I have known, procurement organisations have been measured by its efficiency - this could be determined by the savings they produce, quicker turn around times and efficiency in approvals ("Where is my PO stuck?", "When will my goods arrive?", "When will my supplier get paid?" are terms everyone is familiar with).

As described in my previous article, Covid-19 has changed the way procurement functions and works! After all, what's better to do in the aftermath of a crisis than to learn from it and change the way we work. Resiliency is the need of the hour.

In July 2005, I was working for a large company in Mumbai that was in the process of implementing a data center for its customer. Everything was going great. Goods were being delivered by the suppliers on time, the installation and implementation was in full swing. We had ordered tape drives (DL-380 if my memory serves right) from a supplier in Finland. The tape drives arrived at the customs office on 25th. We cleared them from customs (there are a billion forms involved) and brought them into our warehouse on the 1st floor of our facilities in the outskirts of Mumbai - which also housed warehouses and logistics facilities for a lot of companies. The installation was scheduled to take place on the 28th (as there was some pre-work - cabling etc. that needed to be completed). If you are familiar with what happened next - it was a nightmare that one couldn't have fathomed. The Mumbai floods impacted each and every inch of Mumbai like never seen before. By the evening of the 26th, the tape drives(along with a lot of other equipment and most of Mumbai really) was submerged in water. 

So we now had procured a tape drive that was expensive, not delivered to the customer and hit not only the looming data center installation deadlines but as anyone in supply chain is painfully aware, the insurance did not cover natural disasters and hence it hit our costs as well. As luck would have it, the supplier did not have another one ready for shipment either. Not surprisingly, we quickly then had to fold the costs within the margin of the whole project leaving us with absolutely no more room for error or delays. Needless to say, it ended up being a project where the cost was higher than the sale!

In the aftermath of this event, we quickly went about building more strategic long term relationships -ones focussed not just on the money aspect and efficiency(SLAs) with our suppliers that were just collaborative in nature.

I think the Covid-19 situation has brought about a number of similar challenges. How can we ensure resilience in the procurement organisation that will help meet the challenges if and when the next wave of Covid-19 happens or in the aftermath of this pandemic? What about resilience in wake of Brexit? 

Focus on long term relationship fostering with your suppliers - Treat them as partners. Remember that great relationships are built are trust - this applies to your suppliers too. What this means is that you are no longer measuring your suppliers on efficiency alone but you create meaningful gain share contracts that lets them play a strategic role in the way you do business. Contracts are not just about how much savings you can deliver, but what is the right price to do business at which keeps the supplier motivated equally.

One of the key changes that we see taking place in the aftermath of Covid-19 and rightly so - is organisations taking stock of their risks and assessing if it is indeed wise to have single source supply bases for critical items especially when you consider:

1. Due to companies having focussed before on reducing costs and building efficiencies, the single source suppliers more often than not tend to be based in Asia or other low cost countries. 

2. For those suppliers based in such countries, deliveries are still delayed and challenging considering not just the amount of restrictions on trade per se that have been imposed by individual countries but also the logistical nightmares in terms of transport that Covid seems to have created.

The pandemic also seems to have created a volatile demand of goods - for instance, there was a spike in toilet paper purchase, which we all know will lead to a lesser than expected demand in the coming months for toilet paper and other such commodities. Costs for raw materials are also increasingly volatile owing to region specific shutdowns.

The point I try to make is this: Sometimes, it is not easy to to balance efficiency and resiliency. But the cost of doing nothing will also be very significant. In summary, here are some of the steps an organisation can take towards being resilient:

1. Build a strong partnership with your suppliers.

2. Diversify your partner ecosystem.

3. Ensure sufficient capacity buffers in your inventories/stock/forecasts.

4. Take stock of your procurement function, now!!!    

It goes without saying that the world has changed quite a bit over the course of 2020, but further upheaval is expected in 2021 as well. In some ways, life and business alike will start to get back to something resembling normal, but in others, issues that have become common will continue to evolve and change. That is certainly true of the supply chain, and companies are (wisely) already strategizing for what it all means for them in the new year and beyond.

Perhaps the foremost change many companies are looking to make to "future-proof" their operations is by automating more aspects of their normal practices, according to a recent industry survey from Honeywell Intelligrated. This was true for more than half of executives polled, and likely indicates an area of significant growth for the year to come, at a minimum. However, as with past efforts to follow through on automation, it's not likely to be easy, especially due to maintenance costs.

There's plenty to consider when it comes to future-proofing the supply chain.There's plenty to consider when it comes to future-proofing the supply chain.

While companies are certainly conscious of the impact this could have on staffing, especially for lower-skill jobs in their warehouses, they also say adding automation means hiring new professionals who can work with these machines and systems, the report said. With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that 43% of respondents listed improving automation processes as being among their top three business priorities for the next year-plus.

Still grappling with the novel coronavirus
Of course, it's worth noting that while vaccines are rolled out to millions of Americans and to people around the world, the likelihood is that COVID-19 will still have a big impact on regional, national and global supply chains for at least the first half of 2021, if not more. To that end, 90% of companies in the retail and consumer goods sectors say they are still enacting plans to change their supply chains because of the pandemic, according to Bain & Company.

In fact, more than 40% of respondents said they plan to increase investment in the supply chain so they can become quicker, more agile and more resilient overall, the report said. That was true even if it came at greater expense; the share of companies listing cost efficiency as being among their top two concerns slipped 13 points, while increased agility jumped by nearly double that amount.

Sustainability is the key
Whenever changes are made to companies' processes, those making the ultimate decisions have a responsibility to ensure whatever changes they put into place are built to last, and ferry them through any new challenges that may emerge, according to Supply Chain Digital. Often, that comes through in the need to simultaneously operate with greater efficiency and transparency, but also require a rollout of technological solutions that give them larger quantities of more accurate data on an ongoing basis.

Whatever solutions companies arrive at in the new year, and throughout the coming decades, cannot be viewed as "set it and forget it." As the pandemic has shown, even the best-run supply chains are vulnerable to outside factors that cannot be accounted for, making agility a critical goal for any supply chain organization.

 We find ourselves today at a crossroads in how Procurement operates. The battle between rigid, manual, paper-based procurement processes and the “new-age” of procurement is coming to an end. The “new-age” of procurement can be simply defined as: Automation, from sourcing to payment.  COVID is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is the nail in the coffin for labor intensive, legacy procurement processes.

It’s quite easy to come to this conclusion when you look at the direction of our society. We want instant gratification. We complain when our new coffee maker takes more than 24 hours to land on our front doorstep from 2,000 miles across the country. Technology is replacing retail and changing service delivery at a rapid clip. The future of business and procurement is following shortly behind.

Think just 10 years back. It’s 2010 and you have a list of to-do’s before the upcoming work week. Your list includes a trip to the bank to cash a check. A trip to the vehicle repair shop for an estimate. A trip to the doctor for your annual check-up. A trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week. A trip to Home Depot to pick up cleaning supplies. A trip to Office Depot store to pick out school supplies for your children. A busy day! Then you plan to cap it off with a trip to the Movie theater to see a new film.

Today you could complete that entire list of tasks simultaneously while sitting in your pajamas, sipping coffee so long as your thumbs work to operate your iPhone. Take a picture of your check for mobile deposit. Snap some pictures of the dent on your vehicle and submit through the Geico mobile application. Press “order now” on your Whole Foods grocery order and Amazon shopping cart with all the cleaning and school supplies. Enjoy your virtual doctors visit. Then fire up Netflix to watch the new movie after an exhausting day. COVID has certainly added fuel to the dissipation of retail stores and rise of services able to be completed remotely. Tech is now replacing things we never though it could. Just look at education and learning. We’ve moved almost exclusively to eLearning since the rise of COVID.

So how is this indicative of change in the world of Procurement? You must look within the inner workings of fortune 1,000 companies today. Processes that you think would-be long-gone 15+ years ago are still happening. Folks are still faxing, mailing and calling-in orders. Procurement managers are filing away contracts to hopefully pull out on the right day prior to auto-renewal or missing a commitment. Suppliers are still processing orders and generating paper-based invoices. Accounts payable is still manually coding and reconciling invoices for payment. This is partly due to the fact that this is what some Procurement people and suppliers know and are comfortable with. It’s also in part because procurement technology which could automate all these processes has always been thought of as too expensive or complex to implement.

Buyers and suppliers entering the workforce today were born with a tablet in their hands. They had their first smart phone at age 10. Procurement software can now be easily integrated with existing ERP solutions making it easier to implement and less expensive. You don’t need to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours to implement and benefit from procurement software.

The future state of procurement is upon us. Corporations need to invest in technology and the right level of services to make sure the technology is enabling the right process. Automation of Procurement is going to happen, so why not hop aboard now?

In recent months, procurement professionals and executives have paid considerable attention to how their efforts may not be up to modern standards when it comes to operating efficiently. As with many other things in society, it appears as though the novel coronavirus pandemic laid bare some of their shortcomings, and spurred them to action to address those concerns sooner than later.

Many have already identified the areas where they need to take a step forward to meet their modern needs, led by the ability to save money on their operations, according to the 2021 CPO Planning survey from Procurement Leaders and Bain & Company. That was also the top concern seen for 2020, but ranking second on the latest survey — and not previously even in the top five — was managing supplier risk. That, in particular, likely reared its head for many in the purchasing sphere thanks to COVID shutdowns and the like, and companies are now scrambling to make sure those risks are minimized in the future.

How will procurement pros power out of the COVID slowdowns?How will procurement pros power out of the COVID slowdowns?

Also in the top five priorities cited by CPOs for 2021 were developing team skills at third, up from fourth a year earlier, the poll showed. Ranking fourth was improving and growing operating margins, rising one spot. Finally, dropping by two spots was increasing efficiency with new technology investments. The better news for the industry as a whole was that 84% of execs surveyed were at least slightly optimistic about their chances of achieving those goals in the year ahead.

The right investments
As the global rollout of 5G technology continues over the course of 2021, companies may need to do more to make sure they can take advantage, according to The Economic Times. Currently, about 72% of larger businesses plan to invest in this technology by 2025, and 1 in 3 say they are worried they will fall behind the competition if they fail to do so. However, there are some potential stumbling blocks, including simply not knowing how beneficial 5G could be to their operations (cited by 36%) and a lack of substantial government investment in 5G infrastructure (33%).

An in-depth look
When it comes to procurement efforts in one particular market — conference planning services — decision-makers have set themselves up for success in the next few years, according to a report from SpendEdge. Despite lingering problems due to the pandemic, it's expected that there will be an average annual spending growth rate of 3.6% each year from 2020 to 2024. That amounts to total spending over this period of $52 billion, largely because suppliers in this realm are projected to enjoy bargaining power and the industry is largely in growth mode.

With all this in mind, it's vital that those within the procurement sector make sure their efforts are helping them keep up with industry standards in 2021 — and beyond. Failure to do so could lead companies to fall far behind their competition and potentially lose out on opportunities that would have otherwise been available to them.

This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science.

Over the past few years, supply chains everywhere have embraced digital technologies. This trend isn’t unique to the logistics industry, but this sector has developed a particular interest in digitization. Analysts and research firms have talked about the digital supply chain repeatedly, but does it really matter that much?

A lot of people have made lofty claims about what digital transformation in the supply chain can do. These grand predictions can understandably make some professionals question their authenticity. While some of these claims may be overly optimistic, digital supply chains are a significant movement that no company should ignore.

Here’s why businesses should care about supply chain digitization.

Traditional Supply Chains Are Inefficient

Disruption for disruption’s sake isn’t something companies should pursue. Substantial changes should always serve a purpose, and supply chain digitization does. The fact of the matter is that traditional supply chains aren’t efficient. In 2018, more than half of supply chains around the world experienced disruption.

Digitization won’t fix all supply chain disruptions and inefficiencies, but it can substantially improve them. For example, 54% of truck drivers wait between three and five hours at a shipper’s dock, costing companies more than $1 billion annually. Transparency and efficiency gains through digital tools like fleet tracking software and automation can dramatically reduce those wait times.

Digitization makes information like package location, product quality and consumer trends accessible, often immediately so. Traditional methods can’t offer that, so they come with barriers to efficiency.

Digital Supply Chains Expand What’s Possible

The digital supply chain doesn’t just fix historical issues. It provides tools and resources that companies may not have even imagined a few years prior. With new technologies and processes emerging almost every day, the possibilities keep expanding.

Take smart glasses, for example, which can project visuals like picking orders or item locations in front of workers’ eyes. These hands-free technologies were once little more than science-fiction, and now they lead to 15% improvements in efficiency for companies that use them.

Technology like self-driving trucks seems futuristic now but will one day be standard. Already, 16% of logistics companies are investing in it. If supply chains wait too long to prepare for new digital technologies, they’ll quickly fall behind.

Modern Companies and Customers Expect Digital Services

If nothing else, the digital supply chain is significant because the rest of the world expects it and is becoming increasingly digitized. If supply chains don’t follow suit, they’ll become obsolete.

A 2017 McKinsey study found that supply chain digitization had the most potential for boosting revenue of any business area. Despite that potential, only 2% of surveyed companies focused on supply chains in their digitization efforts. That’s a tremendous oversight.

Today’s companies and consumers expect services that match their already digital lifestyle. For example, 79.3% of customers expect free two-day shipping, which is either impossible or impractical to offer without digitization. If supply chains want to be competitive, they too must embrace the digital. 

Supply Chain Digitization Is Becoming Standard

At this point, most supply chains have adopted digitization to some extent. As the years go on, the benchmark for digitization will rise higher. Digital supply chains won’t be an advantage in the future, but a necessity.

Supply chain digitization is inevitable. Embracing this trend can lead to success in this brand new world.

Thanks, Megan!

When it comes to automating processes in the supply chain, it should come as no surprise that companies are investing a lot into the effort and getting a strong return on that investment. However, even with all the strides being made in the past few years, the fact remains that things aren't where they need to be to fully ensure a strong response to consumer needs amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Even as the mass release of a vaccine approaches, companies may need to do more to meet e-commerce needs when it comes to logistics automation, according to an industry study from Modern Materials Handling. For instance, just 6% of companies today say they use automated machinery like robots and self-driving vehicles in their warehouses, even as a quarter of businesses said they did at least a little bit to improve automation over the course of 2020.

Are companies doing enough to meet automation needs?Are companies doing enough to meet automation needs?

But that 25% of businesses beefing up their automation may not be enough; 3 in 5 companies say they saw an increase in e-commerce business by at least 60%, and slightly less than one-quarter saw growth of between 30-59%, the report said. Often, the adjustments made once the pandemic arrived were relatively low-tech, such as rearranging their warehouses and improving manual processes to be more efficient. Those are certainly good steps, but probably not enough to keep up with rapidly evolving needs.

What's the issue?
Often, companies do understand the disparity between their efforts and their current needs, but the biggest impediment to further automation efforts are (perhaps not surprisingly) related to cost, according to Entrepreneur. Relatively few companies have the level of high automation that would make them truly modern, but there are many more that are closing that gap.

Unfortunately, when companies rely on any manual processes — let alone operating primarily or entirely via manual efforts — they're not only leaving efficiency on the table, they're also making things more difficult for their partners in the supply chain, the report said. Even when there is vital operational data that's collected manually, it's more prone to error and less likely to be updated in real time, reducing visibility and make it more difficult to keep lines of communication open.

What it might take
With all of the above having been said, it's worth noting that companies see the value in automation even if they can't get there quite yet, according to Supply Chain Dive. They also tend to have a fairly clear picture of how to get there. For instance, 60% of companies say a warehouse execution system is either very important or vital to achieving automation success. That's slightly ahead of the 59% who felt the same way about order picking technology, 58% who are eyeing labor management software and 57% who prize robotics in their efforts.

Certainly, these are all things for supply chain managers and decision-makers to consider in the near future, and make strategic investments all along the way. The more they can do to lay that critical groundwork, the better off they are likely to be in the years to come.

Data security should be a point of concern for any individual person or business entity, but in the fast-paced world of logistics and procurement, it should be a point of active improvement on an ongoing basis. Simply put, you can never rest on your laurels when it comes to data security, because the things that worked to keep sensitive files safe today might not work tomorrow.

With that in mind, we have some suggestions that could help your company create — and maintain — a better data security posture going forward:

1) Get everyone on the same page

You likely have a lot of stakeholders who handle your sensitive data regularly, whether they are your employees or your supply chain partners, according to Zycus. All those people need to know what your rules and requirements for handling that information are, and how to react in a given situation.

2) Make sure updates are prompt

Your policies should certainly include a mandate to ensure all software is fully up-to-date; no waiting weeks after release to upgrade to the latest version, Zycus said. That way, you can be assured that all known security issues are patched and your data is better insulated from accidental or intentional breaches.

Data security should be a top priority for your logistics company.Data security should be a top priority for your logistics company.

3) Assess risk on an ongoing basis

Again, data security is not a one-size-fits-all, set-it-and-forget-it issue, according to Digital Guardian. You need to be proactive in reviewing your policies to make sure they are appropriate for whatever your current needs happen to be, and update them quickly if that's not the case.

4) Craft plans to respond to problems

When you set standards for how data should be protected, you also need to acknowledge that no security standards are foolproof, Digital Guardian cautioned. As such, any strategies you put together need to incorporate how you will react to a breach of any and all types. That way, there's no guesswork in your response.

5) Make training part of your security processes

You certainly can't expect every employee to be a cybersecurity expert, but you might be able to boost their knowledge with a bit of training, according to Purchase Control. Showing people some new ways to protect themselves and the company could help improve your defenses immeasurably.

6) Invest in the right software

If you don't have top-of-the-line antivirus, antimalware and firewall software installed on every device connecting to your network, you may be leaving yourself unnecessarily vulnerable, Purchase Control advised. Making those investments may have mostly invisible benefits right up until someone attempts to get into your network, at which point the added layers of security could save you from potentially massive data breach remediation costs.

7) Safeguard incoming and outgoing data

Finally, it's important to make sure you and your partners are sharing data that is both appropriate to your needs and being transmitted properly, Purchase Control further warned. A little extra caution on this front can go a long way toward ensuring success throughout your partnership.

The various vaccines developed in recent months to immunize people against the novel coronavirus are already being readied for the general public in some countries; experts believe it will be a few more months before that is the case in the United States. Part of the reason for this is that those within the supply chain sector foresee some difficulties in being fully prepared to distribute the vaccine nationwide, and ensure hundreds of millions of Americans can receive it before the middle of next year.

The quest to develop and manufacture potentially billions of doses of the coronavirus vaccines was code named Operation Warp Speed for a reason: This is something just about everyone had a vested interest in getting completed — from pre-clinical trials to large-scale manufacturing and FDA review and licensure — as quickly as possible. All told, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the hope was to wrap this effort up within 10 months.

How quickly can the supply chain distribute the COVID vaccine?How quickly can the supply chain distribute the COVID vaccine?

However, while it appears a number of pharma companies have tackled this development process with aplomb, a potentially larger problem looms: Creating hundreds of millions of vaccine doses is one thing; actually getting them all to the people who need them is quite another.

The supply chain issue
It should come as no surprise to those in the logistics industry, but the last several months haven't exactly been easy on the supply chain, according to The Wall Street Journal. If there have occasionally been periods when it has been difficult to keep store shelves stocked with essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, it's not hard to envision a period of extreme difficulty in distributing vaccines on a mass scale.

Of course, companies at various steps of the supply chain have had plenty of runway to ramp up their capacity with a specific focus on activation as soon as a vaccine is readily available for distribution, the Journal reported. Airlines and ground shippers alike are readying fleets of vehicles, but estimates show that it will likely take the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s fully loaded with the vaccine to distribute it to everyone in the world. That represents about 10% of total annual pharma airfreight demand, and it will need to be concentrated in a relatively small period of time in 2021.

Other potential problems
It's also worth noting that vaccines have to be handled differently from how other pharma shipments are, including the need to be refrigerated. Such a consideration is another potential stumbling block for distribution, according to Fox Business. Most of the vaccines being rapidly developed and approved today have varying shelf lives in different refrigeration conditions; some can last for up to 30 days in a standard refrigerator, or much longer in a freezer.

But that means they will need to be shipped cold, and the "ultra-cold" freezers needed to ship vaccines en masse aren't exactly readily available to meet current needs, the report said.

Certainly, this is an issue that will be covered heavily in the weeks and months ahead, but the supply chain needs to stand ready to respond to shifting demand.

It's no surprise to anyone in the business world these days that consumer habits have changed considerably in recent months, as COVID lockdowns and health hazards came together to keep more people at home and out of brick-and-mortar stores. One of the biggest changes in this regard is that more people are once again turning to e-commerce for a lot more of their shopping needs. The question many may have, then, is whether this is a permanent trend or something that will wind down as transmission risks decline.

Perhaps this could be best highlighted when it comes to online shopping around the holiday season. While almost 3 out of 4 consumers say they now buy something online at least once per month, and only about 23% rarely or never do so, relatively few plan to do their holiday shopping exclusively online this year, despite COVID concerns, according to a recent survey from Digital Media Solutions. In fact, this was the plan for only about 28% of men and 22% of women.

E-commerce should be easy and seamless for consumers by now.E-commerce should be easy and seamless for consumers by now.

What is seemingly becoming more popular, though, is that people want to get a head start on these efforts, the poll showed. More than 34% said they would begin their holiday shopping prior to Black Friday, and about 32% would do so on the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The remaining one-third of respondents said they would delay their shopping efforts until after that point. That was particularly true of respondents over the age of 65, for which last-minute purchases were in the plans for some 44%.

Changing preferences
As with anything else in commerce, consumers hardly think of online shopping as a perfect process, and they certainly have a few notable frustrations with these avenues, according to a FIDO Alliance survey of 1,000 shoppers. For instance, almost 3 in 5 respondents said they have simply abandoned planned purchases with items in their virtual carts because they couldn't get over problems managing their passwords. Another 40% said they don't want to store financial details with retailers for fear of having their data exposed.

Indeed, more than a third of those polled said they didn't like having to enter personal or billing information and set up a unique account merely to make a purchase, and more than a quarter didn't want to have to set up new passwords for those accounts, the report said.

Returns are a common frustration
Finally, it's worth noting that when people make purchases online, they may have more reason to return items, such as if they are sized incorrectly or don't work as expected, according to Doddle. More than half of people say they have been dissuaded from making an online purchase specifically because of the company's return policy, and all but 5% are actively turned off by companies that create a negative returns experience.

For all these reasons and more, companies may have to continue chipping away at their attempts to make all aspects of online shopping experiences more customer-friendly. That kind of effort can encourage brand loyalty even after in-person shopping habits return to pre-COVID levels.

The number of COVID-19 cases seen around the U.S. is rising quickly once again, after a slight dip in August, and has now risen to stunning highs in short order. Much like the initial spike of cases seen in March and April, the new surge — in which hundreds of thousands of cases are being confirmed every single week — has led many Americans to stock up on necessary items like toilet paper, food and hand sanitizer.

However, there is a crucial difference between the current run on essentials and the one seen several months ago: Supply chains stand ready to meet demand. The Washington Post reported that many major chains and grocery stores across the U.S. have started putting limits on the number of high-demand items people can buy in a single trip. Fortunately for shoppers, the aisles of empty shelves that were so pervasive in the spring are no longer present.

Store shelves aren't as picked-over these days.Store shelves aren't as picked-over these days.

Those companies, as well as their suppliers and other supply chain partners, have shifted strategies significantly in the intervening months by adding more inventory, increasing the number of shipments and so on, the report said. One of the key changes here is companies are increasingly buying directly from manufacturers, rather than third-party suppliers.

A total team effort
Of course, the sea change in the sector has been noted time and again in the past several months, in part because so many people understood the problems their old habits presented and started working quickly and collectively to address them, according to The Hill. That includes support from various government agencies at the state and local levels, though this also resulted in some parts of the country having a much smoother time dealing with these issues, and others continuing to struggle, depending on how hands-on public officials chose to be.

Indeed, many were able to tap the kind of emergency arrangements they've been forced to make in the wake of rather dissimilar disasters in previous years, the report said. For instance, mobilizing assistance programs for businesses and people alike in the wake of busy hurricane seasons and wildfires set up state-level support structures for success in the COVID era.

Bringing it all back home
One of the biggest changes seen in the supply chain this year is more companies are localizing their supplier networks. Experts agree this is likely to become a trend even after COVID threats drop dramatically (or are eliminated) and could be a boon to certain sectors. For instance, there are roughly 2 million large-scale farmers in the U.S., but over the course of several decades, more of the market share is shifting toward massive organizations, according to a study from the University of Missouri, Michigan State, Sam Houston State, and the Family Farm Action Alliance.

Things could change in the wake of COVID, simply because they may have to. The more that can be done to secure and diversify the food supply chain, among other essentials, the better off everyone in the U.S. will be going forward.

In some ways, the logistics industry has been insulated from many of the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in short because businesses and consumers alike still need to send and receive goods. However, insulation does not mean immunity, and companies have certainly had to review their processes in recent months, including how they hire talent and manage their workforces.

In fact, nearly 2 in 5 companies in the industry say they have completely reviewed or already overhauled their external talent dealings in light of the outbreak, according to a recent survey from Guidant Global. Altogether, more than 1 in 4 are trying to collectivize their hiring and employee management efforts across different departments. However, nearly as many (21%) also noted that different teams or divisions of their businesses have been put in charge of these efforts, rather than going with an overarching, company-wide strategy.

Procurement hiring has certainly gone through ups and downs in the past several months.Procurement hiring has certainly gone through ups and downs in the past several months.

Event despite those efforts, almost half of companies said constricted budgets and increased competition for talent in the sector are hampering their hiring efforts, the survey showed. With that in mind, it's worth noting that more companies are going to put a greater emphasis on retooling their talent acquisition processes in the next year or two, and those that have done so already can be viewed as "early adopters."

"The fact that so many respondents are exploring a total talent acquisition approach suggests that the pandemic has pushed businesses towards developing a truly future-proof talent strategy," said Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global.

Understanding what it takes
Companies may also want to think about the ways they manage their internal talent in order to be most effective, but it's not always easy to do so. A recent study of procurement leaders by McKinsey & Co., found that there are some key differentiating factors between companies that excel in the industry, and those that lag even toward the middle of the pack.

Evaluating on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being the lowest rating), McKinsey observed that industry leaders were rated at an average score of 3.5 when it came to category management, 3.3 in training and talent development, and creating more career paths for workers. "Middle of the pack" companies scored at 2.8, 2.4, and 2.3 in these areas, respectively. That may serve to illustrate why some supply chain businesses succeed in attracting and retaining talent, and others continually find themselves struggling to keep up with the competition.

Diversity matters
Finally, it seems that more companies are seeing the value in promoting diversity and inclusion for their in-house hiring efforts, as 64% of respondents in procurement and HR told HireTalent that they prioritize this issue when making hiring decisions. About as many also felt this would be increasingly true in the future.

With all of the above in mind, decision-makers in the procurement sector need to continually evaluate where their hiring efforts succeed, and where they may fall short. With that kind of introspection, you can better ensure you're always setting yourself up for success, even in times of market disruption and uncertainty.

One of the biggest changes in the logistics sectors engendered by the novel coronavirus pandemic is that companies realized their long-standing global supply chains weren't necessarily suited to all of their needs. Previously, a growing number relied on goods shipped from overseas, and especially when it came to manufactured items (rather than raw materials), businesses stateside once again began to understand the benefits of a diversified supply chain that allowed for both regional and global partnerships.

While things may get back to normal when it comes to the global supply chain, experts now increasingly say the pandemic has made the need for more local suppliers to be factored into companies' plans, according to CNBC. When more companies have both local and global partners, they are better insulated from risk; in times of local crisis, they are able to shift operations to rely on global partners, and when international trade runs into hiccups, suppliers in their own region can spring into action.

Global supply chains aren't going anywhere, but they are changing.Global supply chains aren't going anywhere, but they are changing.

However, experts say companies may have to take a quantum leap forward to realize such gains, especially when it comes to using artificial intelligence to power decision-making, the report said.

"I believe this crisis will significantly accelerate the integration and the penetration of AI into this supply chain," Min Wanli, founder and CEO of the technology-focused investment firm North Summit Capital, told the network. "The evolutionary path from current status to that new equilibrium essentially depends upon how fast you adopt the digital technology and also AI technology."

Staggered — but not knocked down
Certainly, there are many businesses that were knocked for a loop when the coronavirus hit and found themselves dazed and confused about how to respond without experiencing disruptions and delays, according to the Financial Times. Some supply chains, such as those related to perishable goods, were in dire straits for quite some time after the outbreak became a global problem. Rapid strategizing allowed more companies to recover somewhat quickly.

However, the damage was done, and companies realized what their shortcomings were, the report said. As such, many within the industry have been working to foster resiliency in their partnerships for months, so that when the next big issue arises (whether it's a pandemic, natural disaster or an economic downturn) they will be able to pivot more quickly and easily.

Responding to changing habits
Of course, it's not just leaders and businesses in the supply chain whose normal routines have been changed by the pandemic — consumers are in the same boat, according to Freight Waves. This is another reason why companies need to be more responsive to changing landscapes. Data suggests that people are now far more inclined to shop online, but businesses need to simultaneously prepare for a future where that remains the norm, and one where buying habits get back to pre-COVID norms.

Simply put, the more industry decision-makers can do to make sure their companies can respond effectively to any developing trends, the better off they, their partners and their customers will be when a new crisis presents itself.

Every professional, regardless of the industry they work in or the part of the world where they reside, has been affected in some way by the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, the issues that arose due to the outbreak have been a bigger problem for the supply chain than most other sectors, and experts in the field now say those hurdles likely aren't going away anytime soon.

Interestingly, many within the logistics sector now say that, in some ways, the pandemic had some positive effects on their operations, as they were forced to shift their longstanding approaches to all aspects of their operations, according to the 2020 Chief Procurement Officer Flash Survey from Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Data from the survey suggests the companies that performed best throughout the pandemic — a time of financial difficulty for many industries — were the ones that sought to improve amid the challenges.

Top performers tended to have more visibility into their supply chain partners' operations as a whole, and were twice as likely to have digitized aspects of their own operations as the companies that lagged behind, the report said. Furthermore, they were seven times more likely to have connected with more suppliers throughout these trying times.

Suppliers have a lot to consider as 2021 approaches.Suppliers have a lot to consider as 2021 approaches.

Getting it right
Now is certainly the time for companies to look at what they've done throughout the pandemic to adjust to the "new normal," and then examine what has worked well, and what needed a little more time in the oven, according to Evertiq. Taking the time to look at best practices before the new year begins, working with partners to continually improve visibility so that one hand always knows what the other is doing, and making everything you do more of a two-way street is certainly advisable.

But more to the point, even if you've generally done a good job managing the ups and downs of COVID life, it's likely that there are still areas of improvement to be implemented, the report said. That could be especially true when it comes to agility; as illustrated by the success of companies that diversified their supplier bases, being able to quickly pivot when issues arise can be important well beyond the end of the pandemic.

Back to normal
The fact is that it may be some time before the many issues around the pandemic are cleared up, and it's hardly a certainty that this will come within the first few months of 2021. As such, World First recommends that resilience should be the watchword for supply chain organizations in the near term, which is why localized suppliers will be so critical to overcoming lingering challenges in the next several months and beyond.

Companies should know by now that the pandemic really only served to make the weak links in their supply chains more obvious, and even if they've spent the last year or so trying to right those wrongs to one extent or another, there's always more work to be done. Strategizing collectively could help ensure everyone has success over the course of 2021, COVID or not.

They say we are approaching a dark winter ahead with COVID-19 cases on the rise. There is however a glimmer of hope with a few promising vaccines in queue to receive expedited approval. This week it was reported that United Airlines began its first shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine from Brussels to Chicago. There is an immense effort underway regarding vaccine distribution and supply chains are going to be tested to their limits. This is definitely an all hands on deck moment and it is going to take a herculean effort on the part of many parties. The challenges ahead really emphasize the need for robust procurement and procurement fundamentals on a few levels. 

First is relationships. There are many companies out there with complementing capabilities that allow for a full end to end delivery of the vaccine. Without everyone working together for the collective good we won’t achieve accelerated results. Procurement teaches us the value of relationships and relationship management. We are human at the end of the day and challenges exist in breaking down communication barriers to ensure we can work with others effectively. Oftentimes procurement works with many stakeholders throughout a business, building consensus and alignment. These fundamental ideas are core to collaborating both internally within an organization or externally with partners and competitors. It is crucial when the stakes are high to evaluate the strengths each party brings to the table and let them own those areas. Additionally relationship management throughout the supply chain must be achieved in the present to ensure success as well as into the future for long term sustainability. Each critical supply relationship must be evaluated and a strategy crafted to ensure an effective partnership.

Second is cost. Many might be thinking with the time sensitive nature of this initiative there is no time to think about keeping costs in check. Rather I would challenge to say understanding cost drivers can help build a sustainable and robust solution that does not cave to unsustainability over time. In procurement oftentimes we look to reduce costs however that is not the only factor. We help to identify value, right size requirements and optimize resources. Reducing cost is a by product of all of those endeavors and helps drive the right level of value and resource within a business. Helping to optimize cost of vaccine distribution not only allows for a more accessible vaccine to all demographics and populations but also ensures companies will not go in the red undertaking this effort.

With all pieces of the puzzle coming together through relationship management, cost optimization and full integration across the board we can ensure a successful distribution of this critical vaccine. It is important to note some key procurement fundamentals are at play and will propel success. Many of these fundamentals can be applied to other challenges but it is ever important with the current pandemic to leverage these practices effectively.

Many organizations in the manufacturing and industrial field often find themselves working tirelessly to ensure employee safety is practiced through the utilization and procurement of a wide variety of PPE equipment.  The immediate threat of COVID-19 to the workforce has also created greater visibility within the safety category to ensure employees are properly protected.  The purpose of this blog is to help establish a roadmap related to the processes and procedures that will help your organization improve its safety program while also establishing significant cost savings. 

Well before the process of aligning on safety SKUs should be made, the first critical step is understanding and agreeing on the key decision makers within your organization regarding anything safety related.  If an Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department is not established within your organization, now is the time to do so.  A reporting hierarchy within your EH&S department should also be clearly established.  For instance, an EH&S Director should be the final decision maker for safety compliance and SKU standardization at all facilities across the organization, while an EH&S Coordinator should be responsible for compliance and enforcement at the local level.  This reporting structure is a critical piece of your overall safety strategy not only to ensure compliance across the organization but to also guarantee significant cost savings.  

Once your EH&S team hierarchy is built and properly aligned, the next step is to understand the “need to have” vs “nice to have” safety SKUs for your organization.  Any “need to have” SKUs should be rather clear – these would include OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) required equipment related to your specific field or any gear that is paramount for employee safety that should be identified and clearly defined (hardhats, fire retardant coveralls, COVID facemasks, etc.).  Working to solve for the “nice to have” category is often times a very difficult to define gray area between comfort and cost.  For instance, if your team works outdoors often, consider investing in the “nice to have” option of weatherproofing materials to ensure rapid moisture evaporation and rain proofing to help drive efficiency.  When addressing the “nice to have” category, there are usually significant cost ramifications that need to be properly evaluated before making any significant decisions.

Once the need vs nice to have discussion has been aligned on, the next step is to begin understanding and developing a SKU consolidation strategy.  This critical step is what often separates a good safety program from a great safety program.  The goal here is to fully understand what PPE categories need to be utilized by your employees, and to establish EH&S approved only SKUs within each specific category.  This process will lead to a custom internal catalog between your employees and awarded safety supplier to ensure ease of purchasing and compliance.  In addition, this custom catalog will protect your organization from “off-catalog” non-compliant PPE gear that would create additional costs while also putting your employees at risk for potential injury.

When identifying the SKUs that will qualify for purchase in your custom safety purchasing catalog, it is important to do your due diligence and full evaluation of each SKU in the running.  For instance, when aligning on an item such as safety gloves, performing on-site testing and a comparison of cut-sheets for each product under consideration will help provide tangible data to help influence your decision.  The EH&S team can oversee this process by distributing the PPE gear under evaluation with accompanying surveys to select employees in the field, while also internally reviewing the safety standards and specs identified in each cut-sheet.  This process will establish both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of each pending SKU, which will prove to be tremendously helpful in guiding the EH&S team towards a final decision in establishing cost savings within an improved safety program. 

When you're running your company's procurement department, it's important to put together and perpetually foster the best team you can. After all, if you can get everyone on the same page and pulling in one direction, the benefits for your business as a whole will take a huge step forward.

How do you do that in a coherent and consistent way going forward? The following steps should help:

1) Clearly define everyone's role

Whether you're building a team from scratch, bringing on new members to an existing group, or just looking to revamp an old unit, it's vital to make sure everyone has their own unique roles and knows to stay in those lanes, according to ProcureDesk. You certainly don't want two people working on the same kinds of projects at the same time, so when everyone knows exactly how they fit into the bigger picture, the whole team benefits.

A good procurement department is all about teamwork.A good procurement department is all about teamwork.

2) Move everyone who does purchasing into the same department

If you have a purchasing team already, but there are people outside it who also primarily do that kind of work, it's probably better to bring them into the fold, ProcureDesk advised. That way, you never get into a situation where one hand doesn't know what the other is doing, and you may be able to find new areas of efficiency as well.

3) Train across the board

Training is vital for almost any professional, and there are multiple avenues you can pursue with such efforts for procurement, according to Scout Bee. That could include a solid mix of not only the technical skills that go into each person's job in and of itself, but also soft skills and those that help workers take the next step when it comes to engaging with the latest and greatest tech. Overall, you want your team to be well-rounded and growing all the time.

4) Don't micromanage 

No one likes to feel as though their manager is looming over their shoulders, and more to the point, when it comes to a procurement team, everyone is likely to keep a lot of plates spinning at the same time, Scout Bee said. Instead, it often makes more sense to assume your team knows what they're doing and can get the job done effectively on an ongoing basis.

5) Make collaboration key

The more information that is shared between team members and supply chain partners alike, the better, according to My Management Guide. If you're siloing off deals and data, it's only going to hinder overall performance, so opening things up may be key to unlocking your team's potential.

6) Cultivate leaders on an ongoing basis

Leadership skills have a lot of practical applications for just about every worker, My Management Guide added. As noted above, training is a great way to impart the skills you're looking for, and giving people the opportunity to advance within your team will help keep them engaged and working for you in the long run.

Even though it's only late-November, organizations up and down the supply chain would be wise to start crafting their plans for what they will do when the new year arrives. Of course, many companies have already taken at least some steps toward this goal, but now is the time to go whole-hog on the effort so that you can come back from the holiday season in a position to really hit the ground running.

The following suggestions are just a few of the things you should try to tackle during these efforts, so you can start off 2021 on the right foot:

1) Revamp your workflows

For your purchasing department, in particular, it's a good idea to look at your own internal processes and see what you do and do not do well, according to Four Business Solutions. No company is 100% efficient in their operations, so it's important to simultaneously lean into the things that work well (and identifying why they do) and try to minimize the impact of those that do not (and likewise getting to the bottom of those hang-ups). That kind of effort will go a long way toward smoothing out everything you do and making you a more streamlined department in the new year.

A new year may require new purchasing strategies and processes.A new year may require new purchasing strategies and processes.

2) Put together a Q&A document for partners

If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over with various suppliers or customers, it might be a better use of everyone's time to create a document that answers some of the most frequently asked questions in a clear (but not too specific) manner, Four Business Solutions added. That way, while there may still be some issues that need to be ironed out in a new deal, everyone enters with at least a baseline understanding of what your processes look like.

3) Circle back to identify your supply chain risks

Generally speaking, companies operating within the supply chain will have a pretty good idea of what their risk factors are at any given time, according to Frevvo. However, if you haven't reassessed in the past few months — as issues around the novel coronavirus continue to shift and evolve — now is certainly the time to do it. That way, you can keep working on overcoming those issues throughout the holiday season and try to come up with a solution you can have in place shortly after the new year.

4) Try to work far in advance

Along similar lines, you should have a pretty clear picture at this point of what your holiday season is going to look like, but you might not have done all the same legwork for the new year, according to Supply Chain Game Changer. Once you are able to put together a near-comprehensive list everything you will need soon after the start of 2021, it becomes easier for your procurement department to ease into that time even with all the time off and other issues that typically accompany the holidays — and can hold a business back.

As one might imagine, the novel coronavirus pandemic has turned things upside down for hundreds of millions of people and businesses of all sizes across the U.S., and there's no end to the crisis in sight. Even as many have adapted to a number of aspects of this ever-unpredictable "new normal," it has certainly changed behaviors and attitudes in ways that will continue to affect many aspects of life and the economy — including the supply chain at large — for a long time to come.

In late October, the consulting titan McKinsey polled a large number of Americans to assess how they felt about the COVID situation, and how it has affected consumer habits. While there was a drop of as much as 40% in how much people are going to spend on discretionary purchases in the months ahead, there was also a desire to increase engagement with digital shopping channels by up to 50%.

Consumer sentiments are shifting a lot ahead of the holidays.Consumer sentiments are shifting a lot ahead of the holidays.

In fact, almost 4 in 5 respondents said they have changed their shopping habits in some ways, either switching to new brands or retailers, or even their approach to shopping as a whole, the survey found. Meanwhile, only about 1 in 6 households are expected to increase their holiday spending this year, with 84% saying they will either keep it at last year's level or pare back their plans.

Of note, however, is that while nearly two-thirds of Americans have not resumed normal, pre-COVID activities, a stunning 86% believe the economy will rebound from this shock to the system within the next 12 months.

Sentiment in flux
With the above having been said, much of that survey was conducted prior to the election, which dominated headlines and took bandwidth away from coverage of the coronavirus, during which time cases nationwide surged. Shortly thereafter, it seems, people took notice of just how dire things had become; the University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiments took a big step back between October and November, pretty much across the board.

While the view of current economic conditions was largely unchanged from October to November (and down more than 23% on an annual basis), expectations of an economic recovery slipped 10% month-over-month, and 18.3% annually. Consumer sentiment stepped back almost 6% from October, as well.

Richard Curtin, chief economist for the UM Surveys of Consumers, noted that the election and infection rates were largely to blame for all these setbacks.

The business side
The latest data from the National Federation of Independent Businesses reflects similar sentiments among company executives. While earnings were certainly on the rise in October — the latest month for which data is available — companies were certainly scaling back expectations for future improvements. Only 18% of companies said they planned to make more hires, and only about 1 in 4 expected to make capital outlays. Moreover, just 27% expected the economy to take a step forward in the months ahead, down from 33% a month earlier.

With all this in mind, companies in the supply chain and beyond have a lot to consider when it comes to how (and when) they will bounce back from the economic downturn.

It only stands to reason that many companies have been looking for ways to change their approaches to purchasing, and their involvement in the supply chain as a whole, over the past several months. It's certainly a reasonable response to the novel coronavirus pandemic and its attendant supply chain snags and hiccups, and it's a trend that's only likely to continue for some time to come.

Part of the reason for the somewhat slow-rolled shift is that more than 2 in every 5 companies in the supply chain told Deloitte, as part of an October survey, they are still working to respond to the new procurement issues. Indeed, there was an almost even split among companies that are working on those issues now, and those that will begin to do so in the near future. On the other hand, 57% did say they have already completed their efforts to adapt to the current situation.

There's a lot to consider when it comes to a great procurement approach.There's a lot to consider when it comes to a great procurement approach.

More than half are also now either working to recover from the financial blow they received in recent months, or have already gotten back to where they were before the outbreak, the survey found, and another 30% say they expect to be able to do so within the next six months. However, only 3% of companies report they are already "excelling in the 'new normal,'" and almost 1 in 4 predict it will take at least a year to reach that level.

What's the issue?
Of course, many companies had problems with their approaches to procurement even before the pandemic hit; that international crisis just made clear the many issues that were pre-existing, according to Risk Methods. For instance, nearly half of the industry executives polled by the company said that their organizations had no formalized way to assess suppliers, despite the fact that nearly as many had experienced at least one "major" disruption in their supply chains in the previous 12 months.

Furthermore, 39% said their attempts to automate risk assessment were "low to moderate," the survey showed. Only 20% had any kind of structured plan in place for mitigating such risk.

Room for optimism?
At the same time, many companies both inside and outside the logistics sector were thrown for a loop, and it's only understandable that many have taken months to recover. Procurement is obviously important, but there are many other pressing needs for companies to consider. The good news is purchasing departments in general have been improving their operations for some time, according to a recent Ardent Partners survey. In fact, 90% of chief procurement officers at businesses in the supply chain say their teams have had a consistently growing positive effect on their larger organizations' success across the last three years.

The key, then, is to understand that no business process is perfect in and of itself, and with the market continually shifting, procurement pros must always be ready to pivot and work on areas of improvement.

Much like the rest of the global economy, the supply chain and logistics industry was certainly thrown for a loop by the novel coronavirus pandemic that has been affecting at least some parts of the world for months, and with no end in sight. The question many experts in the sector may have is how long it will take for the supply chain as a whole to fully get back to its previous capacity.

It's worth cautioning that, in some ways, the pandemic has changed the game for everyone in the supply chain permanently, because even if things do go back to exactly how they were before — an unlikely scenario to say the least — there will be more fallback plans and emergency scenarios in place. Nonetheless, a recent survey found that about 1 in 3 supply chain professionals in North America say that they think it will take between six and 12 months, according to IndustryWeek. Another 20% said it would take at least 12 months to as much as two years. 

The market is changing significantly, but are you ready to adapt?The market is changing significantly, but are you ready to adapt?

That survey was conducted in August and September, so more than half the industry sees the supply chain getting back to normal as soon as January 2021, or as far out as September 2022, the report said. In the meantime, issues related to manufacturing delays, shortages of materials and logistics snafus will all continue to persist on some level or another.

What to do?
Of course, a range of 18 months in which the supply chain could return to something resembling normalcy is fairly broad, and how quickly that happens depends as much on what those within the industry do as it does outside factors, according to McKinsey research. For instance, when businesses do more en masse to create transparency throughout their own supply chains, the entire industry benefits, and the same is true of being more accurate when it comes to keeping tabs on inventory.

There are other aspects of these efforts, such as getting a better handle on demand for their offerings, increasing data security, managing cash flow and so on, the report said. However, it may be important to focus more specifically on your own operations and do what you can to make yourself a better partner, then turn to encouraging others to do the same.

A little planning goes a long way
To achieve those ends, you need to look at every aspect of your operations and do what you can to plan out what the next several months (and beyond) will look like, according to Kinaxis. Everything from plotting out supply and demand projections to looking at your own opportunities to ride the wave of sales you might see over the time should inform your decisions, and put you in the best possible position for success.

A holistic look at your operations should help you uncover aspects that previously went unnoticed, and that could be especially important when it comes to identifying and addressing risk as the supply chain continues to evolve and change post-COVID.