Over the past five years ‘digitization’ has been declared the solution to many of the issues faced by modern, complex global supply chains. The challenges posed by the pandemic amplified those claims, as many businesses struggled to cope using manual processes to manage their supply networks and quality control functions.
However, the “it’s not broken, so there’s no need to fix it,” mentality still prevails at some plants, manufacturing lines and supply chains, causing unnecessary delays and hardships that can easily be supplemented with the current and most efficient technology. While digital supply chain-management allows for advances in many elements of business, technology is particularly effective when applied to matters of quality and compliance, it's necessary to ensure quick, efficient, and safe products to consumers.
Late adapters, it’s time to jump into ‘Supply Chain 4.0,’ meaning the new mode of connected supply chain that uses technology to monitor, report and analyze how materials and goods are both manufactured and moved.
According to a 2017 McKinsey study, the average supply chain had a digitization level of 43 percent, the lowest of five business areas that were examined. The same study found digitization was low on the list of investment priorities for supply chain executives, with only two percent saying supply chains are the focus of their forward-looking digital strategies.
A study from 2021 found that a large majority of questionnaire respondents invested in supply chain technology over the course of the pandemic, with many investing more than originally forecasted. Much of this investment was focused on gaining visibility, control, and agility.
However, this evolution is happening at a rate that is less than ideal for the most efficiency. Companies of all sizes—including a significant number of large ones—are slow to adopt new processes. Plenty of circumstances reinforce maintaining the status quo: workers are trained on past practices; the infrastructure needed to continue outdated procedures is already in place; there’s an emotional attachment to continue what’s working; there’s often a large investment involved in bringing in new technology.
Advantages of digital quality and compliance management
Simple coordination. Technology enables seamless communication across a supply network, with all parties able to use a single platform. Online platforms allow for easy service bookings, rapid order changes, and the ability to respond to changing circumstances. Empower your factory workers and suppliers to build trust and save costs.
Standardized metrics and reporting. A digital platform can make it easier for on-the-ground inspectors to take measurements and record observations more accurately and efficiently, using the same inspection workflows across the supply chain to meet brands’ specific standards. Measurements are automatically placed into a report that you’ve designed, maximizing useful data and working to avoid human errors due to poor handwriting and lost forms.
More advanced data analysis. As more information is collected, digitization allows decision-makers to use it more quickly – drilling down for a complete picture of specific suppliers, countries, and product lines, while also quickly compiling information to give an accurate, complete picture of their supply chain. Trends can be easily monitored, to assess performance in the short and long terms. Managers can make those data-driven decisions to find the best-performing suppliers and products to work with as well.
Risk identification. Because the information provided through a digital management platform is updated in real time, challenges to quality can be identified before defective products advance further along the supply chain. Predictive analytics can easily identify high-risk suppliers and product lines, and flag them in the system so safeguards can be put in place.
Speed. One of the great advantages of a digital platform is the speed at which everything can happen. Measurements are taken, reports are created, and analysis is completed in moments rather than days or weeks. This lets managers address quality and compliance challenges in near real-time, saving money and time.
In our business there sometimes seems to be a tall fence to climb, with tradition and innovation on either side. However, one thing remains quite clear: the supply chain and manufacturing sectors can no longer afford to be analog systems, operating with outdated practices. The digital age offers a tremendous number of tools and technologies that can revolutionize industries.
For the sake of speed, quality, and compliance, it's time for the old school to live in the present age. By doing so, those business not only ensure their products remain up-to-par but also up-to- date, positioning themselves to thrive in a rapidly changing space.
By their transition from pen and paper to pixels and algorithms – again, still relatively new – the supply chain and manufacturers can deliver even more efficient and effective service. A move to a complete digital management system improves supply chain flexibility, maximizes performance and increases the resilience of an entire operation. If you’re still holding on to those outdated, “old school” methods, you’ll be left behind.
Pierre-Nicolas Disser is the Chief Sales Officer for QIMA – a developer/supplier of quality inspection, auditing, and testing products that help businesses ensure product and supplier quality control, to secure and manage their product and supplier compliance.