“Disruption” is the word of the year. Alan Amling, distinguished fellow at the University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Institute, explains what it means to supply chain professionals — and why they keep “getting in their own way.”
Of all industry sectors affected by recent economic disruption, supply chain has been the hardest hit. But the crisis has a silver lining: It has brought the supply chain discipline to the attention of senior executives. Supply chain professionals “used to complain that no one knows who we are,” Amling says. “That’s not the problem anymore.”
Sometimes it takes a crisis to enact real and necessary change. Events of the past couple of years, driven primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic, are also prompting businesses to take a fresh look at innovative technologies. That’s the only way they can maintain operations and boost productivity, especially at a time when human labor is at a premium and manual processes are no longer capable of getting the job done.
It’s especially important that companies don’t embrace technology as a means of boosting old business processes. Even the most successful companies “didn’t consider that the external environment had changed,” Amling says. “The way they looked at things was no longer relevant.” What’s more, adoption of the necessary applications can be slowed by internal bureaucracy and a drawn-out decision-making process.
In attempting to make the right moves, companies can get in their own way. Successful implementations require access to data across traditional functions, he adds, but that’s rarely the case. “Executives say [they’re data-driven], but when we talk to people on the front lines, their access to data is siloed and permission based. They have to get in line and fill out a form to get access to information.”