Supply Chain connections

Reliability, transparency, sustainability: the new challenges of Supply Chains

Oct. 7 2020 - 3 min

Natalia Shuman, Executive Vice-President, CIF North America at Bureau Veritas, outlines the major transformations that are ongoing.

What is the current status of supply chain resumption in North America?

"Though supply chains have continued to adapt and improve since the start of the global pandemic, challenges remain that will require practically all companies to abandon prior “best practices” and focus on the kind of transformation that our new environment demands. In a survey of 60 North American senior supply chain executives, for example, the majority said that the crisis exposed weaknesses in their supply chains. This has without a doubt led to a much-needed cross-industry reckoning in which leaders are now more open to systemic change.

Regional needs are changing concretely, and organizations are beginning to build in redundancies that didn’t exist before. For example, in the United States, organizations are now evaluating near-shore solutions—something that we’ve seen in Canada and Mexico. Organizations are learning that we must build in the flexibility and additional capabilities to not only manage the ebb and flow of today’s crisis, but also to prepare for a sustainable future. Gone are the days of companies resorting to supply chain solutions that act as mere band-aids. Time and time again we’ve learned that crises can come in many shapes and forms, from economic recessions, to natural disasters and more. Coming out of this crisis, the strongest companies will have implemented state-of-the-art supply chain management practices powerful enough to mitigate a broad array of risks and perform under any market conditions."

What do you see coming out of the New REALITY in terms of emerging trends for supply chains?

"Traditionally, supply chains have focused on ways to mitigate a narrow set of predictable risks without considering the full picture and the fact that many other things can go wrong. Today’s situation has laid bare these fundamental weaknesses, but it is also inspiring supply chain executives to reimagine and implement processes that can fix past problems and position their organizations to operate smoothly in the future. The biggest trend we are seeing is a drive to ultimately develop end-to-end digital capabilities that can infuse resilience and comprehensive risk management into every aspect of the supply chain. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, robots and advanced analytics are key tools for achieving this. It is critical, however, for every organization to understand how these technologies can optimize their specific operations in order to deploy them intelligently across the supply chain."

The resilience of global supply chains and the ability to face disruptions are key topics for today's organizations. How does Bureau Veritas help them meet these new challenges?

"For almost 200 years, the very nature of our mission has been to support our clients in managing risks and improving performance. More than ever, we are at their sides, facing the new challenges raised by the New Reality, and helping them meet quality, safety, health and sustainability requirements.

In the current context, no organization can transform without first understanding exactly what needs to change. In terms of supply chain transformation, this means that now, more than ever, companies require deep insight into the status quo in order to understand how to plan and ultimately achieve a more resilient, ethical and sustainable set of practices. To support our clients on this journey, we have launched Supply-R: through initial audits of their supply chain practices, we collect data on a digital platform to determine a “resiliency score” and identify the decisions they need to make to fill gaps and improve their supply chains.

Supply-R isn’t about evaluating each supplier individually, but rather taking a step back to holistically examine and evaluate the complexities of the entire supply chain. Clients can use this information to ultimately develop the right transformation plan, making sure their new supply chain processes are equipped with the most relevant technologies and can respond quickly to the evolution of any future business environment. By taking advantage of this solution, our clients are choosing to make their supply chains strong, transparent and flexible."

Is it possible to optimize supply chains while also adhering to ethical and sustainable practices?

"Absolutely. It’s clear now that a reimagined supply chain is not just “nice to have.” It is a requirement if organizations want to survive. Organizations are coming to terms with the fact that their operations can’t simply be about just optimization or just ethical and sustainable practices—they must be both. Getting to this ideal state requires commitment from all fronts within an organization. It requires a detailed approach to not only optimize the traditional functions of a supply chain, but to make sure that ethical practices and sustainability are built in from every angle. This means organizations will need to recognize—and expect—that the new status quo will likely look very different, and must go far beyond simply meeting the goals of the bottom line. If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it is that building a resilient, agile and sustainable supply chain is a pre-requisite for future success.

As a Business to Business to Society company, we have a critical role to play in meeting these objectives. This is how we will contribute to (re)shaping a world of trust."

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