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Supply Chain Industry Updates

If You Can’t Beat ’em, Then You’d Better Learn from ’em


New year, new disruptions? Let’s be real and admit we can count on it.

Yes, 2020 was rough on supply chains, among other things. And while we all looked forward to a less-stressful 2021 — which is off to a rocky start, but we’ve got 358 days left to make this a better year. We can do this! — no one is naive enough to think we won’t experience new disruptions.

Some of those could take the form of “nontraditional” competitors that have have leaped ahead of the game in terms of supply chain efficiency. These could include big dogs such as Amazon and Alibaba, as well as unexpected contenders like companies from other industries that are trying to diversify into your niche, nimble startups and even innovative suppliers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied supply chain disruptions and competitive threats,” said Pierfranceso Manenti, vice president/analyst with Gartner. “The response to these uncertainties prompts chief supply chain officers to accelerate digitalization, explore new business models, adopt the circular economy and develop more agile and resilient supply chains.” To show resilience in the face of new threats, “traditional supply chains must adopt four essential capabilities that characterize their nontraditional competitors.”

Manenti and Gartner recently outlined a four-step process to help organizations adopt this “if you can’t beat ’em, learn from ’em” mindset. They are:

  • Reestablish close contact with your customers — You won their business by understanding exactly what they wanted from you, but have their needs changed over the years without you noticing? “As companies become lulled into complacency by long-established strategies in supply chain, sales, marketing and product development, gaps arise in product and service offerings,” Gartner cautioned.
  • Develop a supply chain innovation mindset — “Even established organizations are planning to operate like a startup when it comes to innovation,” Manenti noted. “To create the necessary innovation culture, [you] need to engage employees with a strong sense of purpose and inspire them with shared beliefs to guide decision-making.”
  • Accelerate supply chain agility — Has your organization become bloated and slow moving? Make use of self-forming teams and data-driven decision-making, and embrace less-hierarchical organizational and leadership models.
  •  Leverage new and traditional business models — “An advantage that nontraditional competitors frequently have over established companies is that they don’t follow the established supply chain conventions,” Gartner said. “These new competitors — especially emerging startups — often are purpose-driven and focus solely on achieving innovation or customer experience as their business goal, instead of being only focused on delivering financial performance that investors expect from established companies.”

None of this is easy to implement, of course. But as the pandemic (slowly) recedes into the rearview mirror, these best practices can help position your organization against the next disruption down the road.