The State of the Supply Chain Industry: A COVID-19 Retrospective

November 09, 2020

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question on every businessperson’s mind was “How will my industry be impacted?” and “Where will this go 6 months from now?”. With now that we are past the 6-month-mark since this disruption hit the United States, we are now living in the moment that we were all trying to get ahead of.

So, what does it look like now?

Fulcrum Digital’s industry thought-leaders have been servicing our clients through this disruption. For insight from the Supply Chain industry, we turn to our VP of Product Engineering, Sukrit Sondhi.

Supply chains are transforming into supplier networks, but it is now time to prepare for the Supplier Internet.

COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains on multiple levels. Some of the impact, such as global shutdowns in manufacturing operations and transportation, has been unprecedented, but understandable given the scale and speed of the pandemic. On the other hand, some of the impact on supply chains has exposed vulnerabilities that are shocking and truly absurd. 

gate of an industrial park closed with a padlock
Source: Adobe Stock

For example, products like cleaning supplies saw shortages due to increased demand. But other products, like toilet paper and some packaged foods, saw much of the demand from the business/commercial sector shift to the residential side. Entire supply chains were ill-equipped to handle this shift, resulting in shortages on the residential side and simultaneously, oversupply on the commercial side. In the same localities, the challenges were that packaging, pricing and delivery designed for B2B channels took months to be repurposed for B2C.

people lining up on the sidewalk
Source: Adobe Stock

In light of this, interoperability of supply chain operations has emerged as an important priority. This can only be achieved if the supply chain operations are highly automated (integrated platforms), speak a common language (standardized interfaces) and are measured and calibrated in a consistent manner (standardized metrics). Further, the configuration, packaging, pricing and delivery of products has to be modular and flexible. Technologies like IoT, blockchain and 5G can be important enablers. However, the emphasis should be on the ability to discover, interconnect, reconfigure and self-calibrate the products and services.

two women using a computer
Source: Adobe Stock

This is driving the next generation in the evolution of supply chains – a universal supplier network, which I like to refer to as the Supplier Internet. We are currently in the primordial stages of this universal network, where numerous fragmented supply chains are moving towards coalescing into networks. This is a result of many organizations deciding to move from a supply chain model to building a supplier network or owning their supplier network. However, the organizations best suited for long-term success will be those that are ready to join and operate on the Supplier Internet.