In her last talk with SVP of Operations Kevin Brzezinski, Runa Macleod, VP Marketing EMEA, wanted to get his vision for the future and understand how a digital-first approach will build a more resilient and sustainable supply chain.

Runa: Hi Kevin. Last time we explored how disruption caused by the pandemic has opened opportunities for the channel. Has the crisis made us re-think the future of the supply chain?

Kevin: The supply chain is at the forefront of the most complex global challenges we face today: globalisation, cross-border trade, law, politics, trade wars, Brexit, and, of course, pandemics. What the current crisis has done is brought supply chain front of mind. What was previously seen as a back-office operations role is now a strategic competitive advantage. A strong, resilient, agile – and cost-effective – supply chain is a business must-have. The data, information and knowledge that flows throughout the supply chain is critical to both business continuity and continued success.

Runa: What will the digital transformation of the supply chain look like?

Kevin: Supply chain is about delivering a ‘frictionless’ end-to-end customer experience. COVID-19 has exposed the reliance on human interactions and lack of visibility, data and flexibility, so the supply chain of the future will be more agile, flexible and adaptable to complex dynamic environments and disruption.

Some of this will be done through technology, as advances are catalysing the digitisation of supply-chain management, changing how products and services are made and delivered, and enabling the creation and sharing of supply-chain information in new ways. Organisations are digitally transforming the management of their supply chains by piloting and applying technologies such as IoT, machine learning, AI, blockchain, robotics and augmented reality to traditional supply-chain management activities.

Runa: Has the pandemic accelerated this transformation?

Kevin: Many changes have been in response to the current crisis, but many organisations were transforming and enhancing in anticipation of future needs and the changing world of commerce in general. The pandemic has simply accelerated these changes.

We are well on our way to leveraging emerging technologies and digital transformation into our operations. This isn’t to say that technology is going to completely take over the supply chain. At least for the foreseeable future, there’s still a need for highly skilled supply-chain teams to have a hands-on approach to their various processes.

But building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitised world and stay current with the latest technology will be essential for any business to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world, as well as take a human-centred and inclusive approach to technology governance.

Runa: What role will sustainability play in this new, resilient, ‘digital’ supply chain’?

Kevin: We already focus on energy conservation and recyclable materials such as paper, packaging and pallets, and we work closely with carriers to reduce greenhouse emissions and carbon footprint.

Looking at the bigger picture, while the effects of climate change on supply chains cannot be precisely predicted, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. So ‘climate-smart’ supply chains will play a much bigger role in the future, driven and enabled by technologies such as IoT, AI and robotics.

Vendors, partners and customers are now expecting environmentally friendly policies and processes from their supply-chain partners. Supply chains will become hyper-transparent, so everyone can access and share information about their suppliers’ environmental and social performance.

The pandemic is an inflection point for the supply chain. The crisis has exposed some weaknesses but also unlocked an opportunity to build a future-fit supply chain that is resilient, robust and efficient. One that both drives success and advances the sustainable business agenda.

Read Kevin’s previous blog on lessons learnt and opportunities for the future of the channel

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