How to make your organization digitally resilient to convert crisis into opportunity

Driving resiliency, agility and predictability with smarter supply chains

By | 5 minute read | March 19, 2021

62% of companies have limited supply chain visibility and 15% only have visibility into production. Silos between systems and teams can be the breaking point in a supply chain and have been exposed during Covid-19. To create operational resilience in supply chains, they need to move beyond visibility to being able to predict and then rapidly act on the data. This needs a platform that allows information to be shared across organizational boundaries to make supply chains that are dynamic, responsive and interconnected.

Building smarter supply chains

Systems based on exponential technologies can help organizations build smarter supply chains and increase digital resilience. Smarter supply chains that leverage the power of AI and other emerging technologies can help companies maintain business continuity amid disruption and uncertainty.

Why have some organizations been more resilient?

Those organizations that have been digitally resilient, with supply chains that could flex and adapt have been the ones that have navigated the COVID-19 crisis with the greatest success. While some industries have benefited and others have faced massive headwinds, every sector of the economy has companies that have converted crisis into opportunity.  The retailers who have rapidly pivoted their focus to online for both home delivery and click and collect have captured additional market share. Those manufacturers who could adapt their supply base to continue to source materials when areas of the world were in lock down were those who acquired new customers. There have been many stories of those that have emerged stronger, much of that can be traced back to those that had invested in their supply chains to make them digitally, physically and organizationally resilient.

Scientists, through the vaccines and testing programs, are enabling the world to start thinking about returning to a more normal environment. It is critical that we learn the lessons from the pandemic, especially the unique opportunity to scrutinize supply chain visibility, resilience and risk to re-imagine our supply chains for the future. In particular the way that we have hastily, and often successfully, improvised with new technologies must now be built into our way of thinking. We should also not miss this once in a generation opportunity to also take the opportunity to build greater sustainability into our supply chains. This will have the dual advantage of future proofing supply chains and also meeting the societal and consumer focus on sustainability.

Reimagine your supply chain

By reimagining supply chain processes into intelligent workflows, organizations can reach new levels of responsiveness and resilience. Intelligent workflows challenge siloed processes and ways of working to uncover efficiencies across a network of processes and partners.

Augmented by AI and infused with emerging technologies (automation, blockchain, IoT, 5G and edge computing), new supply chain intelligent workflows underpinned by business platforms can deliver exceptional outcomes at scale. We can look at any step of the value chain for such opportunity for transformation from demand planning, to manufacturing execution or order orchestration and fulfillment. Reinventing these processes also means transforming the way organizations are designed and teams are aligned. Intelligent workflows reimagine this intersection of people, process and technology. These tech-enabled processes enable supply chain professionals to be primed to execute and deliver more effectively and efficiently against strategies and environments that continually change. These professionals can be armed with the right information flow and decision rights for optimal output.

To build resiliency, agility and predictability, leaders need to transform their supply chain workflows across three levels. Creating a smarter supply chain that can first see, second predict and thirdly act to successfully navigate global and local disruptions will equip them to deliver the required resiliency for the future.


Using AI to leverage unstructured real-time data can provide near-term visibility and insights. Putting in place a global tool, like the Sterling Control Tower, can give end to end visibility of supply chain flows for a long-term solution. Combine the power of a control tower with the IBM Hyper Insights blockchain solution which employs IoT and AI and it is now possible to see where your products are, in real-time, across the world. There are quick wins to be found too. For example, most shipping companies have much of the data you need about your products in transit. Feeding it directly into a Control Tower, instead of letting it sit there unused, can make a huge difference in transparency. In fact, your team may already be improving visibility to various data streams manually in response to the COVID-19 situation. When the time is right, you can start by automating these processes, replicating them, and scaling them across the enterprise. Whilst also taking the time to personalize the outputs for each user so that the data truly provides insight that can be acted upon.


However, for data to truly add value it needs to be forward looking, so that it can predict what will happen next not purely play back what has happened before. Much supply chain planning is based upon historical data and seasonal patterns, often with poor or incomplete data. Now is the time to modernize your approach by embracing continuous intelligent planning with real-time collaboration, both within the organization and across the supply chain. Never before has it been so important to draw on real-time data to anticipate and respond to consumer/customer behavior or external factors such as weather or other potential disruption events. This means using demand sensing to leverage structured, unstructured and dark data (i.e. that data which is currently hidden from systems – perhaps in someone’s head!). Those companies that have achieved that during the pandemic have reacted a lot quicker and been able to mobilize resources where they are needed. This also means automated, end-to-end integration into customer and supplier planning functions.

As an example, the ability to spot weeks in advance a raw material shortage and take evasive action now, whether that is identifying another supplier on enacting other contingency measures. Using sensors inside products or packaging to track their journey with real-time updates will also become increasingly important to determine whether they have been handled properly or stored at the proper temperature throughout. This will allow much smarter quality control rather than rely on pure sampling, again improving the quality of products delivered to the consumer.