According to EY, there has been one overwhelmingly consistent theme from the COVID-19 crisis: most leaders weren’t ready. Organizations quickly realized they lacked transparency into the potential impact to their supply chains from a global event like this.  As companies worked to assess the impact of the virus, software providers like Eka quickly developed applications to help our clients visual the immensity of the challenge.

We launched our free COVID-19 Risk Monitoring app to assess the virus’s impact on sales, inventory, and logistics. That visibility provides a picture of risk areas in your business, but insight is only the first step. You need to be able to quickly turn that insight into action.

Quick change essential in volatile markets but requires an ecosystem

Commodity markets are volatile even without a pandemic. If you want to keep up with rapidly evolving markets, you need a way to collaborate with your ecosystem of suppliers in real time. Add a pandemic disrupting operations, travel and communications, and collaboration becomes even more challenging.

Despite an abundance of sophisticated supply chain systems available in the market, supply chains are often inefficient because companies, suppliers, and customers are only connected through data. These digital links do not extend across the entire supply chain back to the raw commodities where collaboration has to happen.

In addition, each participant in the supply chain uses their own data – separate from other entities –so they have a picture of their company that may not match the information their trading partners are using. With each trading partner making decisions using different assumptions, miscommunication increases, and inefficiency grows.

COVID-19 is a good example of a market shock that requires fast action. As the virus spreads across the world, companies from food manufacturers and consumer products companies to oil producers and mining operations were evaluating their supply chains and searching for ways to continue to serve their clients.

Contacting trading partners using email or phones was challenging, as many businesses shifted to working from home and altered hours of operations. And these conversations are taking place outside of the system, slowing things down even more as companies struggle to determine exactly where supply chain problems are. These communication challenges created delays in discussions, making creating new plans difficult. Finding new trading partners and on boarding them also takes time, especially if you are using phone, email and fax.

At the same time, companies were entering new markets. Distilleries started producing hand sanitizer while clothing manufacturers began producing masks, scrubs, and other essential products for hospitals. Tesla is manufacturing ventilators instead of cars. These companies had to quickly pivot, forming new connections in completely different markets, and creating new supply chains with new trading partners.

Drive efficiency with supplier collaboration

The power of digital supplier collaboration is the value of instant communication with trading partners in the context of the supply chain tool. You can negotiate in real time, working through contracts and pricing instantly instead of waiting hours or days for return phone calls or emails. You can analyze your options across suppliers quickly and onboard new trading partners easily.

A digital supplier network enables you to pivot faster and smarter.

  • Shift suppliers quickly when needed. Communicate instantly when there are disruptions, so you can collaborate, plan, and execute contingencies quickly and efficiently. Eliminate days of waiting for responses.
  • Increase responsiveness. Automate communication and reduce the cost and latency of information sharing. You no longer waste time chasing down information on multiple emails and phone calls. Keep the teams focused on higher value activities.
  • Increase efficiency. Business partners can update, upload or view documents, analyze transaction histories and conduct negotiations online. Automatic updates provide real-time views of contracts, PO status, payments, tickets, etc. All trading partners have a single, accurate picture of the business, improving overall supply chain performance and inter-company interactions.
  • Reduce risk. Know the status of your suppliers in real time, so you can react quickly when disruptions occur. Create new contracts in seconds, reducing disruptions.
  • Improve compliance controls. Automate manual tasks, creating a comprehensive audit trail.

Perhaps the greatest lesson from COVID-19 is that companies need to be prepared to pivot quickly when unexpected market shocks occur. Embracing a digital supplier network provides that flexibility, and the efficiency gains aren’t just benefits during pandemics and market shocks.

Improve efficiency, lower costs and expand your supplier network on demand with a digital supplier network like Eka’s Supplier Connect. Make the best possible deals and improve supplier collaboration to ensure all trading partners win.

Mary DeFilippe spends her days creating engaging content – blogs, white papers, articles, and more – that helps readers better understand new technology. She can frequently be found walking around the office listening to heavy metal music while pondering ideas for her next blog.