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Several challenges loom large for supply chain managers as 2021 approaches for the transportation industry. These include the absence of data visibility, poor or nonexistent information flow, a reactive mindset for crisis response, limited automation, flawed data analysis and organization, and resistance to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. To be prepared for what 2021 has in store, supply chain managers need to be focused on these five critical capabilities.

Updates to Systems to Capture Live Data

With digital tracking and logistics devices becoming the norm, and with real-time cloud technologies allowing for up-to-the-minute shipment monitoring, live data is more attainable than ever. Delays and holdups in shipping can be lowered, dwell time can be cut in half, and overall response time to questions and issues can be greatly improved with live data access. In 2021, supply chain managers should strive to improve end-to-end visibility and better communication across all supply chain networks. That goal rests within using EDI and API to connect the full supply chain tech stack and deploying more SaaS-based resources. Also, it includes working with expert consultants, like GlobalTranz, to help build a more proactive and data-driven strategy. This will be key to successful growth in 2021 for all supply chains.

Increased Use of AI in Transportation Optimization

Keeping the competitive edge in today’s market relies on vital end-to-end transparency, open communication, and real-time data processing. All this needs to happen along every link of the supply chain and poses one of the biggest challenges supply chain managers face today. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for companies with limited resources. In that space, AI has risen to take on the challenge. AI has become more and more integrated into the transportation and shipping industry through analytics, transportation optimization, and other measures. Embracing advancements in technology and AI systems will streamline replenishment and bring new visibility to inventory management while in transit too.

Diversification of the Supplier Base

Understanding who supply chain managers are working with at the supplier level is essential to be prepared for possible disruptions and issues down the road. Knowing the suppliers’ standards, distribution centers, routing guides, established business relationships, and how everything fits together is an important part of supply chain organization. And it is also important to diversify the supplier base, including suppliers of product and transportation capacity. That way, if something happens to one or even two of the suppliers, the entire system does not come to a standstill. In other words, it’s easier to overcome an issue with a supplier when others can step up and fill in the gap. This cannot be done with a limited supplier base to start with, so the more suppliers, the better off your organization will be.

Enabling Management by Exception

Managing by exception is another critical capability in the industry that supply chain managers need. As reported by Supply Chain 24/7, "Exception management means knowing how to respond when to respond, and the best way to respond, to eliminate the risk of disruption, and handle adverse events. Even changes within capacity can require exception management, rerouting shipments, and redefining the loads accordingly." Knowing how to deal with exceptions and deviations makes it easier to respond quickly and efficiently and is essential for managers at every level of the supply chain network. Making it a regular part of operations will set things up for what the new year has in store for the freight industry.

Deploying More Automated Systems

Operating a supply chain efficiently requires automation and improved business intelligence. However, doing this correctly is more than just making automation mandatory. Automation and smart tech are not curing for all ails, and it is not enough to simply do it. After all, you cannot take medicine unless you know what’s wrong. That’s why automated system use must be done well. Supply chain managers need to understand the what, when, where, why, and how of successful automation implementation. Scaling and adjusting tech is easier to achieve than in-person adjustments, which is another important part of automation systems within the supply chain.

Listen to "The Role of Supply Chain Technology for More Effective Inventory & Warehouse Management" on Spreaker.

Prepare Supply Chain Managers for the Coming Year With Expert Insight

To learn more about how to best prepare for 2021 and how supply chain managers can make the most of the time and resources available to them, it’s time to put these critical capabilities to work. And that all begins with understanding where you stand and evaluating your business relationships. Most significantly, it’s time to recognize that an outside expert can help your team thrive through this record-shattering peak season, realize what’s needed to succeed next year, and do it all again in perpetuity.