By Maria Jesus Saenz

The need to embrace the digital transformation (DT) of supply chains remains critically important for companies, but as is the case in most areas of business, it is being shaped by the COVID-19 crisis.

In some respects, the imperative to pursue DT is even more urgent in light of the pandemic and its repercussions. Also, the crisis has significant implications for the way artificial intelligence (AI) — a core component of DT — is deployed in the supply chain domain.

Digital Transformation-derived flexibility gaining currency

The pandemic is testing the resilience of supply chains as never before, and the consequences for how supply chains are designed and operated will take years to play out. However, what is already clear is that DT will help to define what we mean by a resilient supply chain going forward.

Visibility is fundamental to resilience, and data is intrinsic to visibility. Companies that are relatively advanced in their DT journey are using end-to-end data to connect globally dispersed operations, and are achieving levels of visibility that are not available to less advanced enterprises.

DT also improves the ability of companies to flex with volatile markets and shifting demands. We have seen how powerful this can be as the pandemic has forced drastic changes in the corporate world. For example, manufacturers of autos and fashion apparel have pivoted to produce urgently needed medical and personal protective equipment.

Companies that can turn on a dime in this way have the flexibility and robustness needed to excel in highly changeable markets. DT imbues these qualities because it often requires companies to redesign processes from scratch. Also, they have to be adept at realigning the digital thread when introducing new products. The manufacturers that responded to demands created by the pandemic face this realignment challenge.

Unfortunately, companies that have only just started their DT journey will find it more difficult to achieve this level of flexibility. These enterprises will have to ramp up their efforts in response to market demands.

Moreover, DT lends itself to e-commerce and the service rigors of last-mile delivery. E-commerce has gained ground in the pandemic as stay-at-home consumers order more products online.

Another potential pandemic-related outcome is that DT will help companies to manage the uncertainties of global trade. The COVID-19 crisis is compounding the tensions that disrupted trade flows before the virus erupted. However, globalization will still be a potent force even when the pandemic subsides. For example, a single Apple iPhone is made up of parts sourced from 42 countries. Companies are redesigning their supply networks in response to changes in the global trade landscape. Digitalized supply chains will make it easier for them to switch from one model to another as government policies change.

View the full article on

View the full article on the MTL CTL blog.