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Strategic Foresight | Industry Insights

Supply Chain Innovation: How to Make Your Supply Chain Future-Fit

Supply Chain Innovation: How to Make Your Supply Chain Future-Fit

As a variety of factors continue to impact the global economy, the clear call for companies to prioritize foresight and innovation across business activities is more relevant than ever. In this blog, we look at the role of foresight and innovation in supply chain management to anticipate and respond to future requirements for supply chains. Moreover, we provide three key factors to ensure future-fit supply chains. 

Phrases such as “agile business operations” and “future-fit organizations” are part of the modern startup jargon and are often bandied about without an analysis of what the process of agility and becoming future-ready may entail. Looking at these phenomena in terms of the supply chain is crucial for organizations that wish to avoid disruption and ensure reliable service delivery to their customers in moments of crisis. In the first blog in this series on supply chain innovation, we analyzed the forces shaping the future of supply chains in a variety of industries: Looking at the energy, FMCG, retail, and automotive sectors, we highlighted the pertinent technological innovations influencing the supply chain in these sectors and how a single point of truth can help optimize harnessing said innovations.

In this second part of a series of blogs focused on supply chain innovation, we turn the focus to foresight. We discuss the importance of foresight and its applications in supply chain management, which foresight methodologies are most applicable to supply chain innovation, and what potential strategies companies can use to ensure future-fit supply chains through the foresight process.

The Role of Foresight in Supply Chain Innovation

Scholars in the field of foresight studies believe that a panoramic view is required for organizations to fully grasp the changes on the horizon and develop strategies to tackle even the most unprecedented of changes. This is why an interdisciplinary approach that considers economic, social, technological, environmental, political, and legal global happenings is crucial to practical foresight. Whether teams adopt a STEEP or PESTEL methodology, what is most important is that connections are made between sectors and disciplines to understand better how your organization’s supply chain processes could be impacted.

In short, at ITONICS we believe that the benefits of a continuous and collaborative foresight process include:

  • 360° early-warning system: anticipate and respond to change
  • Profound decision base: use better data to make better decisions
  • Inspirator: detect new opportunities and spark new ideas
  • Strategy processor: refine strategic direction and market fit

A sub-section of general foresight, chain foresight, is focused on creating stronger, more resilient supply chains. According to research from the Bialystok University of Technology, the advent of chain foresight is predicated on the following:  

  • Taking into account the interrelated entities collaborating with each other in the supply chain process
  • Understanding the influence of the different sectors involved in the supply chain process
  • An awareness of the different types of technology required to optimize supply chain processes

To undertake an adequate chain foresight process, organizations require a single-point-truth to gather insights, analyze change over time, and collaborate across departments to understand how your business interests will be affected by macro shifts.

Learn more about how you can enhance your environmental scanning activities with the ITONICS software tools:

Download our How-To Guide for always-on environmental scanning with ITONICS Insights

Key Factors to Future-Proofing Your Supply Chains          

The results of the foresight process described above enable teams to develop resilient, agile, and sustainable business practices. But what do these terms mean and how are they related to supply chain innovation? We unpack all three below.

Building Resilient Supply Chains 

Large-scale disruptive forces such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the current war in Ukraine revealed the inherent vulnerabilities in many organizations’ business models and supply chains. How businesses handle unforeseen circumstances is a type of litmus test for how resilient their supply chains are. The pandemic, in particular, revealed how they were winners - who optimized their processes to meet the moment - and losers who were relegated to the realms of a laggard in not being to keep up.

As McKinsey points out, supply chain risk sits at the intersection of supply chain vulnerability and unexpected events. The ITONICS Insights tool provides organizations with a critical lens to understand disruption on the horizon, empowering organizations through scanning millions of signals sourced from industry news, patent data, and technology research publications, all custom tagged and filtered. Whether it is a lack of understanding of disruptive startups or finding out which companies they need to partner with, organizations can determine which signals of change they are vulnerable to and find the requisite solutions to strengthen their supply chain.

Identifying relevant Trends and Technologies with ITONICS Insights

Developing Agile Supply Chains 

Developing agile supply chains involves nuanced awareness of consumer trends and having a dedicated workforce that can move quickly to act on shifting consumer desires. The trends, in this case, are intrinsically related to technologies that can empower supply chain teams to be more fast-acting and create models that can map consumer desires to predict future wants better. The pandemic showed dramatic shifts in consumer behavior, most notably regarding loyalty and how shoppers went to places that could deliver on efficiency and convenience. ITONICS Insights is the perfect tool to identify the latest trends and technologies that can provide a granular awareness of consumer needs and provide solution drivers which empower you to adapt your business operations to meet these needs.  

Developing agile supply chain processes also requires cross-departmental alignment, sometimes in globally-distributed workforces. The ITONICS Roadmap provides this exact solution. Designed to assist organizations in plotting their strategic planning of products, markets, technologies, and resources, the Roadmap consolidates different business units into one overarching, integrated stage-gate process, enabling a top-down and bottom-up analysis of strategic planning for a specific time period.ITONICS Roadmap for Strategic Planning and Innovation Roadmapping

Considering Sustainability in Supply Chains

Various experts have proclaimed in the last two years that COVID-19 is a real, but temporary hindrance to supply chains. The long-term issue to be reckoned with is how to infuse sustainability into the logistical and transportation processes of supply chains. ESG regulations and scoring systems are ‘sticks’ to the sustainability imperative, and organizations must find the counterpart ‘carrots’ to enable themselves to proactively infuse sustainability into their processes.

Sustainability Trends and Technologies Impacting Supply Chains

The ITONICS Sustainability Radar highlights which trends and technologies are critical to reducing emissions and creating greener business practices. McKinsey's research mirrors this by asserting that organizations will need to move from the triangular model of Cost-Quality-Service to a more pentagonal model where resilience, agility & sustainability are critical tenets of successful supply chain management.

Using ITONICS to Innovate Your Supply Chain

The ITONICS Innovation OS helps innovation architects discover, collect and evaluate emerging trends and technologies in one central location. But the use cases of our software are not limited to innovation or R&D departments. Our Innovation OS also provides a complete solution for supply chain managers:

  • explore weak signals that provide insights into new product delivery channels,
  • track the trends and technologies that could augment your own supply chain system,
  • earmark the new disruptive startups that are operating within your sector,
  • collaborate with suppliers to tackle current and future challenges,
  • and create roadmaps collaboratively for sprints and challenges in supply chain management.

Start building a resilient, agile, and sustainable supply chain ecosystem and try our software tools for free. To learn more about the features and functionalities of the ITONICS software to transform your supply chain management, get in touch with one of our experts for a personal demo!

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