June 30, 2023 By IBM Supply Chain 3 min read

The industrial sector is facing a perfect storm when it comes to their supply chains: an outdated reliance on manual processes, raw materials demand that will likely outpace supply, as well as potential resource constraints. This is not only impacting the sector’s ability to meet consumer expectations by delivering the products customers need when they need them. Supply chain woes are also impacting the speed and efficiency with which this equipment-heavy industry can repair vital machinery. Delays in repairs can often mean supply chain disruptions. Pair all of this with the difficulty of meeting customer expectations that deliver a superior customer experience, while maximizing profitability, and it can seem like the industrial sector is facing an impossible task. 

Facts about supply chains in the industrial sector

According to research and surveys from Advanced Tech, Forbes, McKinsey, and S&P Global:

  • Lead times on semiconductor fab equipment have extended to 10-14 months, and for some components lead times are 2 years. This equipment is critical to expanding capacity for chip production.
  • 80% of manufacturers report MRO asset management in their facilities needs improvement
  • 60% of construction companies admit their industry is behind when it comes to adopting digital technology

5 ways the industrial sector can improve its supply chain resiliency

1. Ditch manual processes in favor of digitizing and automating supply chain processes.

    Automation will enable organizations to identify and resolve critical supply chain issues faster with end-to-end visibility, advanced analytics and actionable workflows. By extending process intelligence and execution, supply chains become more adaptive, responsive and predictive.

    2. Improve visibility across manufacturing, operations, and distribution

    Orchestrate your end-to-end supply chain with a smarter control tower.

    3. Optimize your maintenance inventory.

    By ensuring that you know not only which maintenance parts are in stock, but at what levels, and in which locations, industrial firms can prevent production shut-downs (and the subsequent impact on profitability). As an added benefit, this can reduce working capital tied up to carrying high M&R part inventory levels.

    4. Leverage AI-driven Intelligence to deliver on products and promises.

    Increase on-time delivery performance and customer satisfaction by managing and prioritizing orders based on inventory.

    5. Partner with someone who has sustainability supply chain expertise.

    Purpose matters to consumers and drives profitability. The right partner can help organizations in the industrial sector understand how to reduce waste, improve transparency, and work with suppliers to ensure sustainable practices throughout the supply chain—all while keeping looming SEC regulations on climate risk reporting top-of-mind.

    What can help improve visibility and resiliency in the industrial sector supply chain?

    IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising

    IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising can help balance customer promises with profitability by executing orders with minimum errors to maximize profits and customer satisfaction.​ Ensuring improved performance by proving out fulfillment scenarios prior to go-live​. Intelligently balancing omnichannel fulfillment costs against service to protect margins. The possibilities? Lower fulfillment shipping costs and improved customer satisfaction. ​

    IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising is a part of the Sterling Order Management which earned multiple market leadership awards as recognized by G2, including 1st in OMS Spring 2023 Report.


    IBM MRO IO can reduce unplanned downtime by ensuring on-site availability of critical materials and spares to keep round-the-clock operations running. Additionally, learn how to cut MRO inventory-related costs by eliminating inefficiencies, sharing critical spares across geographical regions, and reducing non-essential parts inventory.​

    All of this can lead to reduction in asset downtime, maintenance budget savings, reduction in inventory costs, and an increase in service levels. See IBM MRO IO in action by reading about how Shell and IBM ​jointly developed and launched Oren, a global B2B mining services marketplace platform to gain more productivity in the $190 billion mining industry.

    Explore the IBM Control Tower 

    To understand how industrial firms can identify and resolve critical supply chain issues faster with end-to-end visibility, advanced analytics and actionable workflows, explore the IBM Control Tower. You will learn how the IBM Control Tower:

    Bringing resilient and sustainable supply chains to life requires a consulting partner with deep ERP expertise, and knowledge of how AI, automation, IoT, blockchain, and weather combine to improve accuracy and productivity, while also reducing IT complexity, resource consumption and costs. 

    IBM Consulting: Supply chain services for industrial products

    IBM Consulting is a global leader in supply chain consulting with a global ecosystem of
    partnerships, proprietary access to IBM’s own technology, research and Expert Labs. Our industry expertise, end-to-end approach from strategy to implementation, and dedicated sustainability practice, ensures your supply chain can adapt to today’s challenges and prepare for future opportunities, while minimizing risks, reducing costs, and driving continuous improvement in both environmental and social performance.

    IBM Consulting helps the world’s leading Industrial Products companies like CEMEX design and build intelligent, resilient and sustainable supply chains that empower each partner in the supply chain with the transparency and insights to act in service to the end customer.

    Learn how IBM Supply Chain can help you
    Was this article helpful?

    More from Supply chain

    MRO spare parts optimization

    4 min read - Many managers in asset-intensive industries like energy, utilities or process manufacturing, perform a delicate high-wire act when managing inventory. Finding the right balance becomes crucial for helping ensure the success of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) initiatives, specifically the spare parts that support them. What’s at stake? Whether MRO processes address preventive maintenance, service failures or shutdown overhauls, the wanted results are the same: deliver increased service levels, function safely and sustainably, operate efficiently and reduce unplanned and costly downtime.…

    Supply Chain Optimization: Business scenarios and architecture

    2 min read - The pandemic has brought supply chain to focus, and organizations recognize dynamic supply assurance as a critical capability for their business. Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCO) and other executives seek to optimize their supply chain by infusing AI, modernizing their technology and addressing sustainability goals. Over the next decade, CSCOs will need to solve key industry challenges: supply chain disruptions due to climate events; regional conflicts such as Ukraine or Middle East; the desire for convenience and personalization; awareness of…

    FDA FSMA: Providing value beyond compliance

    5 min read - The supply chain plays a pivotal role in delivering goods and services to both businesses and consumers, serving as the connective thread between industries, nations, communities and all components of the value chain. Our dependence on supply chains is most pronounced in ensuring food supply. However, over the decades, the supply chain has grown longer and increasingly intricate, which means consumers may find themselves more distant from the origin of the products they consume. Supply chains comprise multiple tiers and…

    IBM Newsletters

    Get our newsletters and topic updates that deliver the latest thought leadership and insights on emerging trends.
    Subscribe now More newsletters