As we near the end of 2022, supply chain and logistics executives are busy preparing their strategies, plans, and budgets to deal with the inflation, uncertainty, and risks that are clouding the year ahead. One key objective for dealing with these challenges is improving supply chain resilience, which includes improving supply chain visibility capabilities and developing stronger and more transparent relationships with suppliers, carriers and other trading partners. What actions should companies take now to achieve these goals? How is technology integral to this process? Those are the key questions I discussed with Jerome Roberts, GVP of Marketing at Blume Global, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
Rethinking Supply Chain Strategies
I began our discussion by asking Jerome what companies should be thinking about as they plan for 2023. Jerome notes that the past few years have been very difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and many other disruptions and challenges have forced supply chain executives to rethink supply chain strategies for both top-line and bottom-line growth. He offers three factors for consideration.
First, Jerome comments on the proliferation of software systems targeting supply chain visibility across various modes of transportation and production. These systems often don’t easily communicate with each other, causing blind spots and frustrating efforts for overall visibility. So, consolidating these various systems and investing in a platform for end-to-end supply chain visibility can provide cost, service and resiliency benefits.
“We all know that visibility is important,” Jerome says. “At the end of the day, you can’t drive a car without being able to look out the windshield. But what’s more important is actually turning the wheel and making the right turns. The actions you take [based on what you see] are more important.”
Second, Jerome points out that supply chain disruptions and congestion have increased detention and demurrage fees, which can quickly impact the bottom line. Having visibility to these fees, and taking actions to reduce them, will be important since there is significant money involved.
Third, Jerome suggests companies have significant opportunities to reduce costs and improve customer service through their carrier selection. Balancing costs and service will be key, especially during a potential recession.
Visibility Isn’t the End Goal
Following up on Jerome’s first point, I asked him how, after over two decades of focus on visibility, companies are doing with regards to getting value from supply chain visibility solutions.
Jerome notes that, “Getting end-to-end visibility isn’t the goal, it’s what you do with that information that’s important. Companies have been forced into improving visibility over the past three years, which is good. But now, how do you leverage the insights gained to improve planning, or use AI and machine learning to leverage in-transit visibility to reduce costs, such as detention and demurrage fees, and also to mitigate disruptions? You have to go beyond visibility to automated actions. That’s where the opportunities are [with a platform] that you can’t get with spreadsheets.”
Understanding OSRA 2022
With ocean shipping delays and port congestion being hot topics the past two years, detention and demurrage charges have been top-of-mind for shippers. The Ocean Shipping and Reform Act (OSRA) provides companies the means to get a handle on these charges. “There are a lot of opportunities to save money that goes right to the bottom-line by understanding what is happening here,” says Jerome. “Using technology to understand wait times and what goes on at various terminals provides huge low-hanging fruit opportunities for reducing costs and delays through real-time decision-making.”
Developing Partner Transparency
One thing the pandemic quickly exposed was a lack of transparency to n-tier suppliers up the supply chain. Jerome notes that blind spots to these suppliers caught many companies by surprise when COVID shutdowns occurred, resulting in major supply disruptions. “Shoring up capabilities in supplier visibility will not only help companies mitigate problems in real time, it will expose vulnerabilities so companies can add redundancies to prevent future issues,” he says. “That’s where resilience is built in.”
Getting to 100% Digital
What is the biggest lesson learned for supply chain executives from the past two years that they should apply moving forward? Jerome’s short answer was “100% digital.” What does that mean? Watch the full episode for Jerome’s explanation, plus other insights and advice he shared during our conversation. Then keep the conversation going by posting a comment and sharing your perspective.