Disruptions are nothing new, but today, supply chains are being stressed in multiple ways at the same time. Supply pressures, logistics limitations, dramatic demand mix changes, and overnight shifts from physical to online retail are just some of the challenges companies are facing. As a supply chain professional, how do you manage concurrent supply- and demand-side pressures, handle seismic shifts in fulfillment, adjust for the broader organization’s ability to execute, and still deliver on customer promises?

Managing through disruption will remain an important topic among supply chain leaders for years to come. Already we are seeing valuable lessons emerge as supply chains are tested to their limits and businesses innovate to push beyond. Here are some early observations and takeaways to help manage disruption today and get ahead of events in the future: 

Intelligent, end-to-end visibility is the foundation. Companies are acting quickly. For example, pivoting supply out of affected areas into other lines of supply. However, if raw materials are still being produced in the impacted area, the ability to make enough finished goods is hampered. Intelligent, end-to-end visibility across the supply chain – into each source of supply and demand, including details on customers, orders and inventory – helps you identify potential pain points and develop effective contingency plans. With a deep understanding of how your business runs on a daily basis, you can take advantage of a range of approaches to address multi-layered challenges.

Manufacturing giant Parker Hannifin Corporation rolled out a global order orchestration framework, enabling it to receive, ship and accept returned orders from anywhere. Tight integration with the company’s warehouse management environment ensures a seamless, end-to-end ordering process—from purchase to picking and fulfillment.

Overlay transparency and authenticity in communication with partners. As organizations navigate this digital disruption journey, they are looking for new ways to drive efficiencies and increase resilience, while maintaining trust and transparency with suppliers. Technologies like AI and blockchain can help deliver deeper levels of insight to further understand and mitigate points of impact and contention. For example, these insights can be applied to multiple process optimization and transparency across ecosystems, to discover and quickly connect with alternative sources they trust. In turn, companies are able to continue to meet customer expectations despite unprecedented obstacles, and more effectively balance costs and risks. Introducing flexibility in their trading approach with partners – adjusting payment dates, shipping terms, sales and returns policies, and more – fuels collaboration and keeps supply chains moving forward. Those that have reached far into their supply chain and have a partner-minded business can respond faster to an ever-changing world.

Plan for contingencies so you can still deliver value. Disruptions are inevitable. But getting your customers what they need – when and where they need it – has never been more critical. It is possible to manage through complexity and preserve business continuity, while leaning in to cost optimization. When physical storefronts are no longer a channel to fulfill customer demand, your online presence becomes an integral part of your business – not just for revenue, but meeting customer expectations. Companies that are bold in their business continuity planning are the ones thinking creatively in the face of multi-layered challenges. They adapt to the unimaginable and are prepared to make tradeoffs between costs and risks to maximize responsiveness and keep more customer promises.

Eileen Fisher built a central inventory, order-promising and fulfillment hub — enabling true omnichannel retail capabilities and differentiated customer experiences — allowing them to build a solid foundation to drive growth.

Massive disruption to the supply chain requires a range of approaches. As times of complexity continue, supply chain leaders will keep learning and refining what works to satisfy customer demand. Strong leadership – recognizing the severity and impact of disruption on people’s lives, making bold moves and standing up for your values as a brand – is what customers expect in whatever market you serve. And this, perhaps, is the most important commitment you can make right now.

Learn more about order management and fulfillment software that helps you manage through complexity and preserve business continuity, while leaning in to cost optimization.

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