As we approach the end of 2022, supply chain and logistics executives are busy preparing their strategies, plans and budgets to address the inflation, uncertainty and risks that are clouding the year ahead. A key objective in addressing these challenges is to improve 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 an integral part of this process? These are the key questions I discussed with Jerome Roberts, GVP of Marketing at Blume Global, on a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Rethinking supply chain strategies

I started our discussion by asking Jerome what companies should be thinking about as they plan for 2023. Jerome notes that the last few years have been very difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and many other disruptions and challenges which have forced supply chain executives to rethink supply chain strategies for profit and bottom line growth. He offers three factors to consider.

First, Jerome comments on the proliferation of software systems aimed at supply chain visibility across various modes of transportation and manufacturing. These systems often don’t communicate easily with each other, causing blind spots and frustrating overall visibility efforts. Thus, consolidating these various systems and investing in a platform for end-to-end supply chain visibility can deliver cost, service, and resiliency benefits.

“We all know visibility is important,” says Jerome. “At the end of the day, you can’t drive a car without being able to look out the windshield. But the most important thing is to turn the wheel and make the right turns. The actions you take [based on what you see] they are more important”.

Second, Jerome points out that supply chain disruptions and congestion have increased downtime and demurrage expenses, which can quickly impact bottom line. Having visibility into these fees and taking actions to reduce them will be important as there is a lot of money involved.

Third, Jerome suggests companies have significant opportunities to reduce costs and improve customer service through carrier selection. Balancing cost and service will be key, especially during a potential recession.

Visibility is not the ultimate goal

Following up on Jerome’s first point, I asked him how, after more than two decades of focusing on visibility, companies are doing in terms of getting value out of supply chain visibility solutions.

Jerome observes that, “Getting end-to-end visibility isn’t the goal, it’s what you do with the information that’s important. Companies have been forced to improve visibility over the past three years, which is good. But now, how do you leverage insights to improve planning or use artificial intelligence and machine learning to leverage in-transit visibility to reduce costs, such as downtime and demurrage fees, and also mitigate disruptions? You need to move beyond visibility to automated actions. That’s where the opportunities are [with a platform] which you can’t get with spreadsheets.

Understand OSRA 2022

With shipping delays and port congestion being hot topics over the past couple of years, detention and demurrage charges have been a top priority for shippers. The Ocean Shipping and Reform Act (OSRA) provides companies with the means to manage these burdens. “There are a lot of money-saving opportunities that go straight to profits by understanding what’s going on here,” says Jerome. “Using technology to understand wait times and what’s happening in the various terminals offers huge low-cost opportunities to reduce costs and delays through real-time decision making.”

Develop partner transparency

One thing the pandemic quickly exposed was the lack of transparency towards suppliers at multiple levels along the supply chain. Jerome notes that these vendor blind spots took many businesses by surprise when COVID-related shutdowns occurred, resulting in major supply disruptions. “Strengthening vendor visibility capabilities will not only help companies mitigate problems in real time, but will expose vulnerabilities so companies can add redundancies to prevent future problems,” he says. “This is where resilience is built.”

Go 100% digital

What is the biggest lesson learned by supply chain executives in the past two years that they should apply to move forward? Jerome’s short answer was “100% digital.” What does it mean? Watch the full episode for Jerome’s explanation, plus other insights and advice he shared during our conversation. Then continue the conversation by posting a comment and sharing your perspective.

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