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From Blind Spots to Bright Insights: 5 Strategies for Supply Chain Excellence

Imagine an adrenaline-filled pilot of a WWII fighter plane with battle scars limping back to base. What enabled the pilot to return safely? Engineers carefully inspected the returned planes and improved the areas where they found gunfire holes. As the person responsible for managing the fighter plane disruption problem, would you rely on the data you see to define mitigation actions, such as reinforcing the plane where holes were spotted, to protect your soldiers and pilots? Would you comfortably make informed decisions based on the accurate and available data you have seen?

The challenge lies in human beings' tendency to be biased toward what they see, causing them to discard what they don't see easily. WWII fighter plane engineers taught us a valuable lesson. If they had analyzed the planes that did NOT make it back to the home base, they would have likely come to different conclusions. However, the challenge of obtaining data from the planes that didn't return must be acknowledged. But this way, as a result, they may have reinforced the wrong areas of the aircraft. They reinforced visible bullet holes but missed what wasn't seen. They should have enforced the planes where they previously did not see gunfire holes. It highlights the importance of the mantra "know what you don't know" and the need to gather all relevant data to make informed decisions.

Let's apply this analogy to today's supply chain industry. Similar to war, effective decision-making is crucial for optimizing supply chain operations. The availability of accurate data can make all the difference between a smooth, efficient global trade system and a chaotic, unmanageable one. But beware of the unseen - strive to uncover, understand, and use it to your advantage. Missing data could impact the system and the decision process. Supply chain disruption exceeding 40% is considered the number one business risk and requires significant attention. To illustrate, consider this simplified scenario:

The challenge lies in human beings' tendency to be biased toward what they see, causing them to discard what they don't see easily.

Fast forward to a modern-day port: A mysterious container is discovered oozing gooey, melted Swiss chocolate. The insurance company inspector determined that the container was not plugged in and therefore lacked electricity to power its refrigeration unit. The port operator is held responsible for the damage caused. However, if the container had been equipped with sensors and real-time data had been available, it would have been possible to detect irregularities in the refrigeration unit while the container was still at sea. With proper analysis and predictive notifications, the port operator could have immediately cleared the container upon arrival, and the shipping company could have been notified for maintenance purposes. The lack of data can lead to incorrect risk management and mitigation. Recognizing the possibility of missing data and trying to fill these gaps can improve a business's resilience profile.

Recognizing the possibility of missing data and trying to fill these gaps can improve a business's resilience profile.

The challenge of unseen data can be addressed by embracing cargo sensor data, other reliable data sources, advanced analytics, and AI-driven tools. These technologies enable us to gather insights from visible and invisible data, resulting in better decision-making, optimized supply chain management, and a more resilient supply chain that is no longer the number one business risk.

Ever felt the eerie thrill of discovering things hidden in plain sight? It's time to challenge conventional wisdom, tackle unforeseen obstacles, and explore uncharted territories in supply chain management.

Ever felt the eerie thrill of discovering things hidden in plain sight?

Here are 5 actions a Supply Chain Manager can initiate:

  1. Raise Awareness: Create awareness among people about knowing what they don't know. Educate them on the benefits of gaining knowledge and staying informed about new developments in their field.
  2. Foster a Learning Culture: Encourage a learning culture in your organization where employees are encouraged to ask questions, seek feedback, and learn from their mistakes. Make it a habit to share knowledge and information with others and create opportunities for learning and development.
  3. Utilize Technology: Take advantage of technology to collect new data that was previously unavailable and provide access to information and knowledge through third-party sources. Leverage AI, BI, and other tools to gain actionable insights and make learning and information-sharing more accessible and convenient.
  4. Seek Feedback: Encourage feedback from others to identify areas where you lack knowledge or skills. Actively seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, and other professionals in your field to better understand what you don't know.
  5. Embrace a Growth Mindset: Cultivate a growth mindset that embraces challenges, learns from failures, and values continuous learning and improvement. Emphasize the importance of education and development, and encourage others to adopt a growth mindset.


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