Building supply chain resilience is a priority for two-thirds of organisations after COVID-19 disruption

Supply chain leaders: our planning process is only ‘somewhat effective’

More than 72 per cent of organisations have reported their supply chains being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, with a vast majority struggling across all aspects of their operations. This is according to new research from the Capgemini Research Institute, “Fast forward: Rethinking supply chain resilience for a post-COVID-19 world.” The pandemic has forced organisations to prioritise supply chain resilience, with just under two-thirds (60 per cent) stating that their supply chain strategy will need to change significantly in order to adapt to the new normal. Only 9 per cent of organisations are expecting a return to business-as-usual.

There is growing awareness that supply chains need to be more flexible and agile so they can react and adapt quickly to potential disruption. In fact, 60 per cent of organisations said the current crisis has forced them to adapt their business models, while increasing supply chain resilience post COVID-19 is cited as a priority for 65 per cent.

Over the past year organisations have struggled to quickly respond to increasing disruptions and restore their operations to a steady, reliable state. Organizations surveyed across retail, consumer products, discrete manufacturing and life sciences reported multiple challenges across their supply chains. The majority have found challenges across all aspects of their operations, including shortages of critical parts/materials (68 per cent), delayed shipments and longer lead times (77 per cent), difficulties in adjusting production capacity in response to fluctuating demand (65 per cent), and difficulties planning amid volatile levels of customer demand (69 per cent).

From a sector perspective, only 30 per cent of life sciences organisations in the survey reported a negative business impact due to the crisis, compared to over 80 per cent of organisations in other sectors (retail, consumer products, discrete manufacturing). Furthermore, 68 per cent of consumer products and retail consumers prefer locally produced items in the wake of this crisis, and sustainability is influencing the purchase preferences of 79 per cent of customers.

The obstacles presented by the pandemic, however, also provide an opportunity for organisations to build a more resilient, flexible and agile supply chain that is ready to withstand future disruption and global crises.

Few organisations have the capability to withstand another crisis

As many as 51 per cent of organisations have taken between three to six months to recover from supply chain disruptions this year, while another 17 per cent expect to take six to twelve months to do so. Inevitably, this means few organisations are prepared for any further potential disruption that may lie ahead. Capgemini’s research finds that to cope with a similar crisis in the future, businesses must focus on seven key capabilities for crisis-resilience; identifying the areas that need the most significant, and urgent, improvement is critical for building a resilient supply chain. Only a minority (3 per cent) demonstrate strengths across all of these areas, covering both planned actions and the current state of organisational preparedness.

Capgemini’s report explains that a resilient supply chain is one that has:

  • Contingency planning: anticipating crises and running simulations to improve crisis response
  • Localisation: prioritising localisation as well as regionalisation of supplier base and manufacturing footprint
  • Diversification: prioritising diversification of supplier base, manufacturing and transportation options
  • Sustainability: prioritising sustainability across the supply chain to withstand environmental and regulatory disruptions and meet evolving customer expectations
  • Agility: prioritising flexibility in production and decision making, and displaying agility in shifting to new business models
  • End-to-end cost transparency: accounting for costs with a clear picture of risks associated with low-cost strategies
  • Visibility: emphasising on data-sharing with partners and having full visibility of the supply network

A significant proportion of organisations are taking the necessary measures to build capabilities around the first three dimensions, with 84 per cent citing improving crisis-preparedness as a priority post-COVID. In addition, 76 per cent of organisations are actively investing in localising or regionalising their supplier and manufacturing base to reduce risk and be closer to their customers. As many as 79 per cent of organisations are actively investing in localising or regionalising their supplier and manufacturing base in order to reduce risk and to be closer to their customers. Diversifying the supply chain is also front of mind; 81 per cent of businesses are investing in diversifying their supplier base and 58 per cent in diversifying their manufacturing base.

However, Capgemini found that only a small proportion have the necessary levels of supply chain agility (24 per cent), optimisation of end-to-end costs (19 per cent) and visibility (6 per cent). Building resilience across an entire product range is expensive, time-consuming and often impractical. Instead, organisations should identify the areas where building resilience is critical and create an end-goal of building a resilient mindset throughout the entire product lifecycle.

Investment is key to building supply chain resilience

A resilient supply chain requires investment and businesses are starting to recognise this, with 59 per cent planning to increase their investment in improving supply chain resilience. In addition, organisations are investing in technologies that make supply chains more autonomous and intelligent. Both are key enablers of resilience, allowing supply chains to sense and adapt more quickly to changes or disruptions. Almost half (49 per cent) of organisations are accelerating their investments in automation and 39 per cent in robotics, with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) also among the top focus areas. Investments in certain technologies which are critical for building long-term resilience, such as control towers that enable increased visibility and digital twins that support contingency planning, are expected to accelerate at a slower pace than others – a gap that organisations must address cites the report.

Sustainability will also see significant investment as a result of the pandemic

More than three-quarters of organisations (77 per cent) recognise the need for change, saying they are accelerating their investments in supply chain sustainability over the next three years, with logistics and manufacturing the key focus areas. This shift is not just crisis-driven; businesses are increasingly recognising changing consumer preferences in favour of green alternatives and the fact that they are willing to back this up with their buying decisions.

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