To paraphrase a familiar axiom, you don't fully appreciate the things that make your day-to-day business affairs possible until those things either aren't there anymore or aren't performing. This was a sentiment shared by just about every product-based company during the pandemic, when the efforts designed to stamp out COVID-19 wound up wiping out supply chains more than anything else. Many of those supply chains remain in rough shape in a variety of respects, from raw materials being hard to come by to staffing shortages. As a recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business found, close to 50% of small-business owners have more open jobs than they do workers.

Shoring up staff is a good way to increase supply chain resiliency, which companies are trying to do more of today to ensure theirs has what it takes to stay together when it's taxed in the future.

It can also help strengthen collaboration, which a number of successful supply chain leaders point to as something that helped their supply chains stay supple when the coronavirus struck.

During a recent roundtable event held in Nashville, Tennessee, several supply chain leaders reflected on how their operations fared during the pandemic and what enabled their supply chains to bend, not break. They all agreed that collaboration served as a binding agent. Here's how:

1. Collaboration increases inventory visibility
From the toilet paper shortage to months-long back orders for home-based exercise equipment, insufficient inventory was a huge problem throughout the lockdown. These issues largely stemmed from organizations lacking visibility into the products they had available and how quickly they could have them ready for delivery.

Sara Thomas, vice president of inventory management operations for Target, said insight into inventory hinges on accurate information, and the cornerstone to good information is collaboration, when everyone can trust it's coming from reliable sources, Supply Chain Dive reported. Thomas said collaboration can enhance visibility by the sharing of information, which builds transparency and provides stakeholders with the data they need to determine whether what they have in inventory is adequate or inadequate.

Technology, like enterprise resource planning solutions, provide superior visibility into supply chains and workflows.Technology, like enterprise resource planning solutions, provides superior visibility into supply chains and workflows.

2.  Collaboration increases communication
Collaboration and communication have a synergistic relationship; you can't have one without the other for either to work. Dawn Green, who serves as vice president of procurement for Schneider Electric, noted that organizations that performed the best during the pandemic all had regular contact with their suppliers. This enabled them to maintain supply if their primary supplier was offline or unable to meet their orders due to mitigating circumstances. She added her company is invested in building more trust with her suppliers which  involves providing them insight into Schneider's expectations and goals. This way, suppliers and retailers can align their respective work processes.

Kristi Montgomery, vice president of research, innovation and development at the Kenco Group, also noted how open communication can help organizations' recruit and retain talent, which has been problematic for a number of business owners since COVID.

3.  Collaboration and technology
From enterprise resource planning software to supply chain management applications, technology and cloud capabilities provide insight and visibility into supply chains like never before. CEO Kendra Tucker noted that this type of technology is not only effective from a collaboration improvement standpoint, but companies have a variety of options to select from, which enables companies to pick and choose which one is best for their needs.

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