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April 2020

Future Proof your Supply Chain

Future Proof your Supply Chain

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Future Proof Your Supply Chain

Over the past two months, every government and healthcare facility around the world has worked tirelessly to learn more about COVID-19, to treat afflicted patients and most of all, to stop the spread. At the same time, global importers and exporters have also struggled with the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on their supply chains.

Even with the lessons we have learned from the SARS outbreak, or the Swine Flu outbreak, or the 2011 Fukushima tsunami, the logistics concerns and risk management strategies have been put to the test by COVID-19.

Given the scale of the pandemic, it is difficult to rush into the creation of a methodical supply chain. Nonetheless, staying ahead means taking the lessons learned and planning for a future with the possibility of similar incidents.

Invariably, toilet paper has been the one commercial product which everyone can tie to the global panic surrounding the coronavirus. You would think people would be buying pallets of hand wash, but it was oddly toilet paper. We’ve never seen so many news headlines about toilet paper in modern history.

Despite the illogical rush, many manufacturers did not halt their production and distribution of toilet paper. Yet, there are many other products with halted production due to supply chain disruptions. Now, toilet paper is widely available once again.

Still, with a deeply linked global supply chain, operating in tight margins, this is prime time for a significant reordering. The tissue hoarding is just one example.

As a result, it is never too soon to start planning for the next potential crisis. Not to mention, global economies will be in recovery mode for the foreseeable future. Even as nations open back up, things won’t bounce back to pre-pandemic levels just yet. If the recovery period is protracted, then it will require increased levels of coordination and orchestration.

The uncertainty is still here. But, with planning, you can help facilitate a more significant bounce back. In addition, the actions you take now will set the stage for sustained performance and growth once the pandemic is fully mitigated.

Implement risk management systems

Regardless of how great the current implications are, risk management is still a priority. The tools which should be in place include credit risk and supply risk. Think of the lessons you learned from the Great Recession in 2008 to get a sense of how to address client and supply-side credit risks. Keep things in balance without any overlap.

Increase visibility

One of the keys to supply chain recovery is by increasing visibility so that you can make data-driven decisions on a timely basis using real-time data. To achieve this, look at deploying control towers to send alerts, insights, and data. If you can put these types of control towers together quickly, even better. Utilize control towers powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning which provide advanced analytics.

Next, you want to look at your direct and indirect supplier base and identify areas with increased levels of supply chain risk. Review your KPIs throughout your extended supply network, contracts, bottlenecks, stock-outs, and overall performance with the objective of working towards better synchronization.

Then, improve real-time visibility around order fulfillment while looking for areas prime for improvement such as better delivery estimates or improving expectations around product availability to even accessing inventory outside of primary fulfillment centers.

It’s also extremely important to have better visibility around the logistics infrastructure, backlogs, delays, capacity constraints, inventory levels, and the material flows. Figure out where you can improve customer service through these processes.

Further, take a look at your factories and expectations around any supplier constraints of inbound materials along with the quality of materials. How are asset utilization and labor scheduling affected by COVID-19? What is production like across various facilities? Are their quality control issues? Can you make use of advanced algorithms to address inbound quality issues, as well as finished goods quality issues moving forward?

Analyze your supply chain infrastructure and design

Before the pandemic, most organizations worked with the assumption that raw materials were always readily available and accessible for global production. It seemed a one-size-fits-all supply chain perspective. Although, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in this philosophy.

So then, instead of continuing to use static operational systems, look at dynamic distribution capacity. Find local supply sources in all of your major markets. Stop relying on single sourcing. Even if single sourcing has kept costs low, we are living and will live in a different world after the pandemic.

Research suppliers in local markets in the event you need to have a secondary source. As a result, you can diversify your supply chain and rely on more dynamic distribution.

As you can see, the only thing you can rely on is change.

Break up your supply chain. If your supply chain is too long, you can expect larger issues. Take the toilet paper example again. Production has continued, but store shelves remained empty because brand owners were not getting replenishment alerts fast enough even though they normally sit on at least two weeks of inventory. If there are a larger number of nodes affected, then the bullwhip effect comes into play with distorted signals and an increase in demand error.

Separate fact from fiction

Right now, your supply chain may be experiencing the bullwhip effect of unpredictable buyer behavior, such as the run on toilet paper and related products such as flushable wipes. Or, the panic-buying of staple items such as rice and beans, disinfectants, and medicines. There is a known-unknown matrix in the pandemic scenario. But, it’s still vital to separate fact from fiction, don’t make assumptions.

Increase agility around evolving customer demands

Manufacturers could not immediately respond to the toilet tissue shortages because they do not rely on shelf signals. At the same time, demand for luxury items tumbled. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the estimation of final customer demand more challenging but also more significant.

Figure out if the demand signals you get are coming from your direct customers, and if they reflect the pandemic uncertainties. Create a demand-planning team, using analytical tools, to ensure you have a dependable demand signal to ensure you are providing adequate supply.

In addition, use marketing insights, databases, and customer communication platforms to better understand the demand straight from your client’s customers. If data sources are limited, then use direct communication channels to plug the discrepancies. Furthermore, use stringent processes that can quickly adapt to evolving scenarios. Remember to do the following:

  • Create an accurate demand-forecast strategy
  • Incorporate market intelligence
  • Use analytical forecasting tools
  • Create a dynamic monitoring system that facilitates quick mitigation of forecasting errors

Many customers were buying based on shortage predictions. If needed, decrease the size of the orders, but make them more frequent to ensure a higher level of agility when needed and the ability to manage the highs and lows of varying demand.

Optimize both production and distribution

It’s crucial to employ scenario analysis to detect various production scenarios for understanding their operational and financial implications. And then, production should begin by making sure your employees are safe, offering the option for remote work if possible, and listening to your employees’ concerns.

Plus, scenario planning is crucial to determine the implications of a long-term shutdown. How will this affect available capacity and current inventory levels? Figure out which products are the highest in demand – strategically – taking into consideration that health and human safety are at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Further, how will these current implications impact future recovery? Draw a more comprehensive analysis with input from strategy staff, marketing, sales, and operations to contribute to macroeconomic forecasts. By taking these types of actions, you can better align production and supply chain with the expected demand – depending on the circumstances.

Improve deployment of dynamic inventory

For the most part, companies often have a primary distribution center to serve its customers. Then, historical demand data is used to optimize the network. So then, customers get the products they want, when they want them. But, the pandemic environment is anything but normal with much higher supply-side volatility and surging demand for certain types of products.

As the economy rebounds, there will be inventory imbalances present throughout the network. As a result, consider alternative routes to secure your logistics capacity. Regions will emerge from quarantine piecemeal, which means that there will be an irregular supply chain for an extended period of time. Think of how you can diversify your distribution networks and how to address regional availability. Create alternative distribution centers now.

In conclusion

Take notes from corporate investors who have been working on reducing their stock portfolio volatility and re-evaluate cumbersome overseas supply chains. Whether we are facing a pandemic, or a trade war, organizations in every sector must work at improving supply chain risk.

The only way to mitigate the impact of unpredictable pandemics is with thorough preparation. Even before the next crisis occurs, your contingencies should already be in place. The recovery may be V-shaped, or it could take longer and resemble a L-or-U shape. Still, recovery is coming. In the meantime, this is the word of the day: Diversification.

Virtual workforce

How To Thrive While Transitioning To A Virtual Workforce

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How To Thrive While Transitioning To A Virtual Workforce

Summary: Many people are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. New remote workers and businesses can help foster success by generating routine, utilizing calendar sharing, having video meetings, setting clear expectations, developing time management skills, and continuing to learn. 

 

As of 2017, 43% of employees worked remotely with some frequency. In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering many brick-and-mortar office places, agile companies are quickly pivoting employees to remote work. Telecommuting is a great benefit in the age of social distances, but it comes with its own challenges. Especially companies and their employees who are new to telework will likely experience growing pains, but there are steps you can take to ease the transition and ensure your virtual workforce is able to thrive. 

New Normal, New Habits 

Working from home is a major transition for employees who have spent their entire working lives in an office space. While offices offer a sort of comforting familiarity, a steady set of expectations, and a familiar environment while home may be full of energetic children, stir-crazy pets, and plenty of chores and hobbies alike to do. 

The best thing for companies who are new to this form of work is to understand that is a transition and that it can take an adjustment period for workers to find their focus, their flow, and their new normal. During this period, be lenient, expect some technical complications, and have patience while new systems for collaborating and working are developed and tested among workers who are unfamiliar. 

You can ease the transition by creating a form of routine, just as employees had at the office. This could be a recurring meeting, a consistent sign-on, sign-off, or lunch time, or anything else that offers stability in this time of stark change. 

Similarly, equip teams with a calendar sharing application such as Google Calendar. When teams can collaborate and understand where time is used and how their efforts fit into a bigger picture that they all are working toward, the stress and isolation of working from home can transform into great freedom for productivity and collaboration. 

Set Expectations

When life is in a deep state of flux, employees can feel overwhelmed with a bombardment of decisions and uncertainty. Guide employees through work changes by offering clear expectations. This may mean specific output quotas, work hours, required meetings, or anything else that is a high priority for your business. 

Don’t set expectations too high or add requirements for their own sake. While structure is important, offering employees some freedom to feel into their new roles and schedules can help ease stress too, boost loyalty, and benefit your company’s culture on a broader scale. 

Communicate Differently

When workers can’t meet face to face, utilize technology to boost presence, connection, and accountability. Instant messenger and chat applications, such as Slack, help employees have real time conversations throughout the day. You can even set up a “watercooler” chat segment where employees can talk about anything to keep connection and camaraderie high. 

For meetings, use a video software such as Zoom in order to help replicate the rapport that comes with in-office meetings. Even a once-a-month meeting on a video can go a long way for morale and accountability. 

It’s important to find new, effective methods of communication with clients and buyers as well. For example, we at Premikati use remote demos to help engage potential clients. Because we are doing this from afar, we pay special attention to asking meaningful questions and really engage with our clients on a deeper level. 

Use Your Time Wisely 

Many new remote works feel like they simultaneously have more and less time than they once did. There’s no more commute time, tedious morning primping, prepping meals ahead, or other tasks that come with office work, but they may feel like work starts expanding into their personal life or struggle with focus during the day due to distractions. 

Time management is a make-or-break factor for virtual workforces. Set expectations surrounding schedules to help prevent worker burnout and the “always-on” mentality. Have focus sprints. Have patience with coworkers who may not always be available. 

Similarly, many job functions can’t be fully performed from home. If you or any of your employees are “benched” during the pandemic, look for other ways to contribute. Could they update documentation? Spend time brainstorming resolutions to industry problems? Furthermore, could they continue their education in order to make deeper contributions after the crisis? Do what you can do, and encourage your employees to do the same, but be mindful as well to not get caught up in busywork. 

Never Stop Learning

Continued education is always important to pursue, but now is a prime opportunity for many employees to pursue an expansion of their skills. Many courses are free during the coronavirus crisis, so time availability, a desire to learn, and an idea about what’s important to know are all you need to bolster yourself and your employees for the future. 

As the new normal for work continues to  change, keep learning what systems work for you and your employees, and don’t be afraid to try new things to make life, and work, a little bit easier and more connective. 

What has your business done to adjust and thrive during the transition to virtual work?  Reach out to us and let us know!

 

Streamline procurement

How to Streamline your Procurement Processes During a Pandemic

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Procurement Processes and a Pandemic

 

Within our modern era of globalization, and inter-woven supply chains, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting an unforeseen set of challenges to address. The state of multi-factory and multi-country manufacturing is now teetering on shaky ground. If COVID-19, and the economic downturn, isn’t effectively mitigated soon, the supply of various items from cars to clothing to electronics and even oranges will falter.

With the breaking down of the global supply chains, many are calling for returning critical production of medical and tech supplies to the United States. Perhaps, another option is to increase the redundancy of supply chains by further diversifying suppliers and inventory moving forward. As a result, any future obstacles can be more easily managed.

With increased demand for specific items such as soap, hand sanitizer, face masks, ventilators, cleaning products, and more – retailers have done their best to serve their communities while drastically transforming how they run their stores and protect the health of their employees and customers alike. In many communities, the pandemic has already negatively impacted the economy and sources of income.

In these times, businesses are going above and beyond to manage their supply chains effectively and ensuring consumers have access to the goods they need. Yet, we have all seen the deluge of images conveying barren store shelves and out-of-stock items. Right now, it’s time to address the short-term fallout from the current health crisis. In this article, we will focus on steps you can take towards minimizing the challenges associated with COVID-19.

How COVID-19 May Affect your Supply Chain

Since this is a novel pandemic, there isn’t an exact method for determining how the coronavirus may impact supply chains but you could experience instances of the following?

  • Materials: Shortages of supplies or materials from deeply-impacted locations.
  • Workforce may face fluctuations due to illness, fear and/or quarantine.
  • Travel, and shipping, may be limited due to newly-placed restrictions and decrease in demand for flights.
  • Established logistics, and networks, may be upended due to capacity shortages and even labor shortages.
  • Consumers are transitioning to online shopping en masse, for a larger percentage of their purchases, and this may be the existing reality moving into the future.

Now is the Time to Secure Demand

As network-wide stockouts increase for certain types of non discretionary goods, it’s critical to strengthen your relationships with co-manufacturers, consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) makers, and distributors. For the most in-demand products, you should hold daily conferences with suppliers to ensure comprehensive supply.

One way you can secure your supply is by limiting variety, for now, then increasing the quantities. In addition, it can help to be more flexible with your delivery windows and even your payment terms. Then redirect your employees and capital to the essential categories during this pandemic. Right now, it is very important to foster an environment of open communication with your partners.

If you are dealing with decreased demand and excess inventory of non discretionary goods, then perhaps you can sell to your distribution partners and also start working with suppliers who have adequate cash reserves.

Living in an unprecedented scenario requires long-term planning, as well. If you supply non discretionary goods then perhaps it might be time to shift focus and resources to 2021. Review your buys for next year, and revise the variety based on expectations of demand even after the pandemic is mitigated. Many of the changes the world has recently made will be long lasting.

Plan Quickly

Now that we are going through this crisis, it’s important to focus on how you can improve your supply chain to become more agile and responsive in the next crisis. Conduct a simulation test and develop a strategic response with action plans. There is no time like the present to create a network of alternative sources.

Being better prepared than the competition might even open new opportunities when the next disruption comes around. When the next disruption arrives, you want to be better prepared than your competitors. Figure out how to diversify concentrated supply chains with high value, and find alternate routes and sources.

Prioritize Flexibility

If you want to limit any future disruptions, then your procurement processes must be more agile than ever. Surges in demand are cobbling excess capacity of specific non discretionary product demands. In fact, freight costs and trucking demand have skyrocketed. Not to mention, shipping rates have gone up. Now that you have experience with this level of disruption, what can you learn from it and how would you prefer to handle a similar disruption in the future?

It will take creativity to ensure you have the capacity to consistently stock your store shelves with the essentials. And, it will take a larger portion of your financial resources. One way to limit expenditures is by having suppliers ship directly to stores, as opposed to distribution centers. Next, you could decrease packaging and assortment complexity so that suppliers send same-SKU shipments to dedicated hub stores.

Product variety is less of a concern, consumers just want to ensure they have supplies of important products. So then, packaging and assortment simplification can help to improve shipping speeds.

Fix the Gaps

When extraordinary measures are needed, then more resources are concentrated on expediting shipments. But, if your company is prepared for a major disruption, will you have to pay premiums to secure adequate supplies or raw materials?

From a future-proofing perspective, what gaps are slowing you down and how can you fix them with the right people, processes, tools, and data? How can you align your procurement and business objectives to protect your organization from crisis events in the future? Think of how customer spending, and demand, will be affected in various crisis scenarios. Make time to prioritize research to get a comprehensive picture.

What are the Financial Implications?

You want to ensure your inventory is located logistically, strategically, and within easy reach. Moreover, it should not be located in areas that are heavily impacted. Then, work with your HR and legal team to determine any financial impacts for not providing reliable supplies to customers and how to guide your team members correctly.

In Conclusion

Once we get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses will quickly fall into two categories: Those who have learned from the crisis and used those lessons to improve their procurement processes and those who like to gamble with their survival by not doing anything and hoping something like this will never come around again. Reviewing your supply networks, and making the right investments now, can ensure you don’t have to feel blindsided by the next crisis.

 

 

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