Future of Supply Chain, Analytics

November 15, 2021 by Victoria Turner
Future of Supply Chain, Analytics
Container ship headed for port (Mika Baumeister Unsplash)

WASHINGTON — Transparency is imperative as the world navigates a pandemic-induced supply chain disruption and works to improve its resiliency, according to a panel of experts at Monday’s Hudson Institute event. 

In the U.S. military’s “biggest modernization effort since World War II,” it is building business analytics into its enterprise resource programs, said Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble, deputy chief of staff, G-4. The need for ERPs is not new, but about two years ago the military had its “data epiphany,” Gamble noted.

“We realize it’s not about the ERP, it’s not about the weapon system, it’s about that data,” he charged, and where the data leads. Modern data analysis tools will give the military a better picture of the supply chain. Partnering with industry has been key, he added, making the military “more effective and efficient” at identifying supply chain vulnerabilities.

Industry always saw these opportunities, Gamble added, whereas the military services “failed to see [them].”

On the industry side, companies like Interos, a supply chain management company, are focused on transparency. According to Interos CEO Jennifer Bisceglie, the “only way we can think about the supply chain is to demand transparency.”

From ethical sourcing to operational resilience and diminished resources, Bisceglie said, “there’s just no way of going back … [and] the only way to get ahead of that is to have transparency.” There is no longer a difference between the physical supply chain and the digital one, she added, they are interconnected. 

“This more openness, this more true partnership with industry … will serve us well,” Gamble added, and could eventually lead to cost reduction in the supply chain.

Interos’ defense and industrial-based customers, Bisceglie pointed out, realize the competitive opportunity to provide the resilience the military needs once a measurable outcome is agreed upon. This competition could lead to reduced costs. Industry does this best, she added, as it always looks for “efficient … effecting … and self-healing” ways of achieving cost reduction. 

A company like AT&T provides a good example of what transparency in data analytics can achieve. According to Dennis Hodgkins, director of logistics and global supply at AT&T, by the time the pandemic hit China, AT&T began contacting all its critical suppliers to ensure transparent, constant vendor communication. “AT&T realized how dependent we are on each other,” he said.

Implementing accurate forecasting, AT&T moved away from the short-term, “just-in-time” supply chain standard to long-term, 24-month forecasting to ensure supply chain resiliency in the face of unexpected spikes in demand.

The army took similar resiliency steps, Gamble said, beginning with modernizing training simulations for sustainment in degraded environments. Lessons learned included the need for industry partners to create “digital twins” of legacy and new weapons systems through artificial intelligence that feed these systems while designing them deliberately for advanced manufacturing use.

“It doesn’t fix the supply chain, but it optimizes the supply chain that is available,” he said. 

Data and transparency through business analytics and intelligence is what now drives each different mitigation strategy once the risk is identified, Gamble added, pointing to the old adage of “let’s not be surprised by the perfectly predictable.”

Victoria can be reached at [email protected]

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  • business analytics
  • data analysis
  • supply chain
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