At Sogeti and Capgemini, we have just published a report called “The digital supply chain’s missing link: focus”. This got me thinking in some depth about the direction in which modern supply chain management is moving.
That’s because, while reports come and go all the time, this one struck a little closer to home. It was that word right at the end of the report title. Focus.
Some years ago, I was involved in setting up a warehouse and central hub for a drugs company. It was an opportunity for me to see how critical a just-in-time supply chain could be – living without your favourite brand of lettuce isn’t a great tragedy, not getting the medicine you need on time, can be.
Focus is such a perfect word for supply chain. You know what you need and when, so you see exactly what has to be done and anything else can be excluded from your vision.
That’s the theory.
The practice, as always, is a lot harder than the theory. Especially when it comes to the testing.
For me as a tester, one of the things that was always a challenge, often the biggest in this particular space of drugs manufacturing, wasn’t the applications or the delivery. It wasn’t even most of the reporting. It was the ability to comply with regulatory and audit traceability and transparency throughout the supply chain. With medicines we had to be able to report on everything, from the doctor who prescribed it, through where it came from, to what batch it was manufactured in, and when it was delivered through the different stages from supplier to central warehouse, to distribution nodes, to the pharmacy, and the patient.
With the rise of distributed ledger technology and blockchain, I think we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-engineer and improve the supply chain, with trust, transparency and traceability built in from the ground up.
Now we can have a single entity that we can add to and to which we can add all our updates. What’s more, we can provide this in a single report, not trying to build a BI report that might have crossed 30 or even 40 different systems.
For the next few years, I think anyone involved in supply chain – in build, testing, and paying for it – needs to have the focus on building in DLT. Why? So that we can build an interconnected web of trusted sources that give us a clear, precise, accurate and reliable way of knowing what, when, who and why against those things we supply.
When we have that information, it means we can plan more carefully and mine reliable data for actionable insights. We can bring in the power of machine learning to optimize and uncover areas that can be improved through applying robotic process automation. For the supply chain is one of those areas that benefits massively from aggregating the small cost saving and time saving per item into large time and cost saving across the organization. And those that successfully do it first are the ones that will thrive and prosper.