The best supply chains are the ones that think on their feet

The best supply chains are the ones that think on their feet

Rashid Abdulla |

It’s not every day that I consider how the logistics sector can learn from F1. But recently, I was struck by @Quartz’s perceptive discussion of ‘cascading failure’. The idea that a single hiccup can trigger a chain reaction that makes everything else go wrong…

A lot can be learned from F1 and the innovative use of marginal gains to mitigate failure and improve performance. Teams use connectivity and data to give them their competitive edge. They learn through data, interpreting it and actioning it in real-time, allowing them to adapt, sharpen their approach and optimize future performances.

This kind of agility is not exclusive to car racing. Indeed, these strategies are comparable to decision making across the supply chain every day.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has heightened the importance of a supply chain’s ability to respond in real-time and optimize its movement of goods. Whether managing the surge in online retail demand or maintaining the provision of medical supplies and fresh produce, supply chains are entering a new race of their own.

Data-driven insights allow us to refine propositions and services, find more efficient routing options, quicken cargo processing and unlock extra capacity when required.

But the more we rely on technological systems, the more important it is that we mitigate the potential points of exposure so that no hiccup brings everything else to a halt. Instead, every single part must be contributing in some way to the success and optimization of the whole. This demands a digital intuition and smart flexibility in our operations.

That any one supply chain can comprise port operations, maritime transport, ship handling and inter-land transport means that a lot of systems and processes are depending on each other for success. But often, the lack of synchronicity between these systems hampers a BCO’s ability to efficiently move their goods.

Smart ports, such as Rotterdam World Gateway, are poised to navigate and respond to kinks in the chain that extend far beyond the port itself, from the origin of cargo through to its destination. Instead, smart ports gather and analyse data 24/7 and combine it with historical trends and public data from logistics providers to establish comprehensive visibility of cargo flows and potential issues that could delay onward distribution.

Underestimating the power of smart flexibility in keeping the supply chain flowing is a costly risk. The more asynchronistic a supply chain, the more prone it is to knowledge gaps, room for error, disjointed operations, and therefore a damaging chain reaction. However, supply chains that are designed to be agile, and are equipped with robust digital capability, can pre-empt these kinds of issues by thinking on their feet, therefore making marginal gains of their own.

Never has this been more important to get right than now.