Supply chain resiliency: A government imperative

By , TJ Stidwill, and Miro Holecy | 5 minute read | October 21, 2022

In a world besieged by a pandemic, inflation, geopolitical strife, climate disasters, and labour shortages, serious weaknesses in our global supply chain have been exposed.

The pandemic served as a sobering wake-up call for supply chain leaders at government organizations. Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, demonstrated an over-reliance on overseas manufacturers of critical public health supplies.

Unforeseen events and circumstances will continue to disrupt supply chains in the future. The need for supply chain modernization is crystal clear. Government agencies are looking for ways to maximize the efficiency and value in supply chains that serve remote communities, the military, and the health of its citizens.

To be mission-ready, government organizations require resilient, sustainable, adaptable supply chains that consistently deliver value to their constituents. Supply chain operations must be fortified with data-driven technology that prepares them to thrive in the future.

With so much at stake, now is the time to modernize aging supply chains that have become costly to maintain, inflexible, and vulnerable to physical and cyber threats. We believe government and industry must work together to co-create the supply chain of the future. We can’t do it alone.


A smarter supply chain driven by data and technology

Imagine preventing cyberattacks that could cripple the Port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest ports in the world. A data sharing platform that enables digital information flow throughout the supply chain will protect the Port from cyber threats and maintain the flow of critical cargo.

Imagine a world-leading digital border that relies on an Ecosystem of Trust to improve the flow of goods and people into the UK while delivering robust upstream compliance. Using data and technology will create a more secure, compliant border while reducing administrative burdens and costs.

Data and technology have made these leading initiatives possible. As these examples demonstrate, supply chains generate a wealth of information at every point along the chain – from source materials provided by the supplier, through to the manufacturer, and finally to the end user via distribution channels.

The question is: How can government organizations be certain they are accessing the right information to make the decisions that ensure the right materials are in place at the right time? The answer is data.


Governments play two key roles

As a logistics organization, the federal government operates its own supply chains for public sector focus areas such as healthcare and transportation. In this role, government manages the supply chain to efficiently procure and distribute products and services required by its constituents, such as vaccines, military supplies, and mail.

Government also plays a crucial role in enabling critical infrastructure for the commercial supply chain in areas such as climate change, transportation, and global affairs. In this role, government supports:

  • Resiliency and Sustainability: Ensures that the world’s supply chains can handle unexpected shocks while improving sustainability of government operations. This may include cybersecurity at ports and emergency management enabling the government to get critical supplies like vaccines and water to those in need.
  • Economic Growth: Stimulates the economy by providing critical infrastructure (ports, railways, roads, airports), utilities, services (postal) and promoting trade. IBM has worked with the City of Copenhagen to develop a Utility Flexibility Platform that uses cloud, AI, automation, and IoT data to improve the city’s renewable energy usage.
  • Compliance: Oversees supply chains to ensure compliance with national and international rules including customs declarations and advanced cargo analytics. The IBM Food Trust is a collaborative ecosystem of food growers, distributors, and industry participants that uses data to enhance traceability and accountability in the food system while improving supply chain efficiencies.

Regardless of which role government plays, collaboration with industry is essential. IBM Consulting brings together government and industry ecosystems using data and workflows to drive efficiencies at every stage of the supply chain ecosystem.


Intelligent workflows fuel the supply chain of the future

Building more resilient supply chains means designing intelligent workflows powered by AI-driven automation. However, automation solutions can only be beneficial if the data they run on is clean and connected. The supply chain of the future emphasizes the importance of:

  • Using and optimizing data to make more informed decisions
  • Collecting and curating the right data to align and evolve offerings and services to constituent needs
  • Managing data appropriately and securely by adhering to ethical, privacy and security considerations
  • Evolving and iterating services based on data-driven decision making

Analytics and automation can be used to harness and curate data across the entire ecosystem to achieve real-time, actionable insights – freeing supply chain leaders to spend their time making informed strategic decisions and maximizing future opportunities.

Using AI to make processes more efficient, responsive, and adaptive, the new “smarter” supply chain uses intelligent workflows fueled by data-driven decisions. Like any workflow, supply chains can become more intelligent.

Intelligent workflows create value by reimagining the way work is done, adding AI and automation to everyday tasks, insights, responses, and actions – providing near-instant insights supporting ecosystems and dynamic work teams. By taking an integrated approach to data and AI, you can increase real-time visibility, enhance the ability to pivot quickly, and protect against security threats.

Together with the right strategy and support, government organizations can turn yesterday’s supply chains into intelligent, responsive workflows that enable new ways of doing business.


Co-create a smarter supply chain 

The pandemic has forever changed our approach to supply chains. Transformation is imperative, but building resilient, adaptable supply chains does not happen without thoughtful leadership and a well-designed strategic plan that is tailored to meet the specific requirements of your organization.

According to IBV research, supply chain leaders can develop and operate data-informed, optimized, sustainable supply chains by:

  • Exploring new business models and technology-infused workflows that boost resilience and proactively predict and minimize risk
  • Investing in automation and AI-powered workflows embedded with predictive capabilities to drive real-time decision making
  • Making sustainability a top priority to align consumption with sourcing and procurement activities

One thing is certain: Supply chain transformations are not “one size fits all.” The challenges involved are simply too complex and specific.

A partner like IBM offers the full spectrum of capabilities and experience in solving enterprise-class challenges through large-scale transformations. From idea to strategy to implementation, IBM will co-create your transformation journey by drawing upon our expertise in technology, strategy, data, analytics, implementation, and outsourcing. The IBM Garage is a proven model for collaborative problem-solving and co-creating solutions with citizens and other trusted government organizations.

Discover how IBM Consulting is helping government organizations bring data and work flows together to drive supply chain efficiencies. Together, let’s create a smarter supply chain powered by ecosystems working in harmony for the benefit of everyone.


TJ Stidwill, Associate Partner, Data and Technology Transformation, IBM Canada

TJ Stidwill, Associate Partner, Data and Technology Transformation, IBM Canada



miro holecy author headshot

Miro Holecy, Government Industry Executive – Critical Infrastructure, SAP, Transportation, IBM Distinguished Engineer



Further Reading

CSCO Study: Achieving Data Lead Innovation

IBV Study: Government Transformation in Tumultuous Times

IBV Study: Building Intelligent, Resilient and Sustainable Supply Chains

IBM Centre for Business of Government