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December 1, 2023

Insights on People, Process, and Technology

Sikko Zoer, an advisor to Boston Consulting Group’s supply chain practice, shares his insights on the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains and the importance of embracing agility in an ever-changing climate.

Supply Chain Agility is Key for Success

Zoer emphasizes the need for agility in the supply chain industry, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He notes that the pandemic highlighted the importance of resilience and the need to ensure that products are available to customers under all circumstances. To achieve this, Zoer stresses the importance of end-to-end visibility and transparency in the supply chain network, from suppliers to distribution channels.

Zoer also points out that digitalization and scenario planning are crucial for making supply chains more agile and predictable. He emphasizes the need for a holistic approach that includes people, processes, and technology, as well as data and data quality.

“To be agile, you need also to understand what the status of your supply chain is, and really have that end to end visibility, that transparency of what’s happening in your supply chain, both upstream when you think about suppliers and how your supply network is performing, but also downstream how your own distribution channels for example, are performing.”

Sikko Zoer –
Supply Chain Consultant and Thought Leader

Prioritizing Planning for Transformative Success

According to Zoer, one of the biggest pitfalls for companies is struggling to define the expected outcome and purpose of supply chain transformation. He suggests that companies prioritize planning, specifically demand planning, supply chain planning, and inventory management, to establish the foundation for successful supply chain transformation. Zoer also emphasizes the importance of data and data quality.

“Start with the fundamental foundations and start with what is the core of supply chain…most companies should start about the demand planning side, because really sensing what’s going on in your markets is key for the success and the performance of your overall end to end supply chain.”

Embracing Change and Managing Ambiguity

As a leader in the supply chain industry, Zoer suggests that leaders must accept the fact that uncertainty is inevitable and embrace change management. He stresses the importance of defining the purpose and communicating the Northstar to engage the organization and stay the course. Zoer also advises leaders to recognize and leverage the capabilities and expertise of their team, and work together to make decisions.

“Accept the fact that you will make mistakes…make sure that you make the decision. And again, you know, always with that end goal in mind.”

Investing in Supply Chain Transformation

Supply chain transformation has become a top priority for companies, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the supply chain industry. Zoer notes that supply chain is critical for the success of most companies, and that companies are investing heavily in supply chain transformation. He emphasizes the need for Supply Chain Leaders to go out there and work together with the rest of the organization to achieve success.

“And that makes also that there is now this attention for supply chain, by the way, but that’s that’s really good news. And that’s good news for Supply Chain Leaders, it’s good news for supply chain professionals.” 

Exciting Innovations in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Zoer is excited about the potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the supply chain industry. He notes that AI is data-driven and has the potential to revolutionize the industry, especially in planning, and that robotics could help alleviate labor market pressures and improve logistics. Zoer emphasizes the need for companies to stay informed and up-to-date on these innovations.

The Takeaways

  • 1.

    Supply chain agility is crucial for success in the ever-changing business climate, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 2.

    Prioritizing planning, specifically demand planning, supply chain planning, and inventory management, is essential for successful supply chain transformation.

  • 3.

    End-to-end visibility and transparency in the supply chain network, from suppliers to distribution channels, is necessary for supply chain agility.

  • 4.

    Change management is essential for successful supply chain transformation. Leaders must define the purpose and communicate the Northstar to engage the organization and stay the course.

  • 5.

    Investing in supply chain transformation is critical for the success of most companies. Leaders must work together with the rest of the organization to achieve success.

  • 6.

    Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics have the potential to revolutionize the supply chain industry, especially in planning and logistics. Companies must stay informed and up-to-date on these innovations.

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