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Building better customer relationships for a smart supply chain

11 Mar 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of pressure on supplier and buyer relationships. Despite the order cancellations and breaches of contract, companies are adapting fast and looking to work together to build a supply chain that can stand up to the ebb and flow of business change.

We know from our Future Ready Report that the outbreak of coronavirus disrupted 86% of supply chains, but the quality of relationships between retailers and their suppliers had a tangible impact on the level of disruption as well.

According to our research, 39% of companies plan to strengthen contracts with suppliers to get priority during times of shortages.

At the same time, however, 40% of companies are also considering the value of local or regional suppliers — rather than buying from abroad. Even if it costs more, local and regional supply chains will be shorter and less prone to disruption. Local companies should be able to respond faster to new orders. Plus, of course, reducing the distance of travel ties in neatly with the drive towards reducing carbon footprint and meeting sustainability goals.

That means building an entirely new set of business-critical relationships.

To create strong relationships companies need data – trusted data. Providing suppliers and customers throughout the supply chain with better, more timely information on product demand and stock availability is hugely valuable. It enables intelligent planning and forecasting; it creates efficient logistics operations; it makes companies far more responsive.

This is where Blockchain is proving so attractive, providing an unarguable source of impartial third party data that provides suppliers with a simple, secure and trusted way to share stock data.

Data as a trusted foundation

Data sharing is nothing new — 53% of businesses already share a substantial amount of information with at least one external body and 42% expect to increase the amount of data they share.

But as our Building Trust in Digital Business research confirms, the way data is secured and used is vital: 89% of business leaders say the use and security of data are essential components of trust in businesses today.

Business leaders also point to data security and privacy as customers’ second most significant priority (48%), coming just behind price (49%).

There are two important parts of effective data sharing – the digital technologies, including the cloud, used to securely collect, store and analyse data, and the scalable, resilient network that allows information to be quickly shared.

Let’s look at healthcare, for example.

In the developing world, healthcare isn’t just a diagnosis and treatment issue — it’s also a supply chain challenge.

Medication needs to be shipped to the right locations while ensuring the correct temperature and humidity is kept throughout the journey.

Healthcare providers need to get the right testing equipment, medicines and expertise to the right place, at the right time. And diagnostic data needs to be shared with the right people at the right time.

Controlant is using the Vodafone Managed IoT Connectivity platform to reinvent the cold chain, delivering real-time data on inventory, temperature, location and humidity. With a view of real-time data, pharmaceutical companies can react proactively to potential issues, avoiding spoilage of temperature-sensitive medication, including vaccines.

In developing countries, SystemOne are helping to manage the flow of healthcare data using global SIMs and high-performance routers.

The SystemOne solution enables diagnostic data from remote clinics to be shared more quickly with frontline doctors, meaning patients receive the right medication quicker, while real-alerts from medical diagnostic devices raise an early alarm of disease outbreaks.

People build relationships

It is also important to remember that while real-time data sharing with suppliers and customers is the basis of a smart supply chain, people are still key to strong relationships. That means your employees and your business partners’ employees.

Our Building Trust in Digital Business webcast confirms that technology is playing an important role in employee engagement; nearly three-quarters of leaders have invested in Unified Communications(UC) platforms to empower employees and build a strong culture.

UC connects people, applications, clouds and networks around the world. From conferencing and collaboration tools to contact centres and customer interaction, UC is helping people to work together wherever they are based.

This is really important while so many employees are still working from home – or operating under safe distancing guidelines. With 44% of businesses expecting the flexible and remote working practices of COVID-19 to remain in place long term, it is also important to think about how people will work together throughout the supply chain.

Providing a home working production manager with immediate access to accurate, trusted information from the warehouse, freight shippers or suppliers can help to keep the supply chain working efficiently.

These technologies will be key to allowing employees and their contacts to build relationships and work together – whether they are at home, in the office or the warehouse.

Reaching out

Businesses increasingly value relationships — 81% of companies are now taking action to support those outside their organisation according to our Future Ready Report

Capturing data effectively and communicating through an automated supply chain can support these relationships, creating strong bonds with employees, partners and customers alike.

Learn more about how to create a robust and smart supply chain that works for you, your suppliers and your customers. Secure, relevant and timely supply chain data.

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