The number of warehouses in the United States increased by nearly 20% from 2008-18. This growth, along with other factors such as consumers shifting toward e-commerce, means supply chains are becoming increasingly complex.

Challenges throughout the chain are unavoidable, so proper management is more important than ever. There are several common issues businesses today face on their journeys to efficiently manage their supply chains.

Challenges of large, complex supply chains

Modern supply chains can be extremely large and complex. Factors such as increased corporate consolidation and the steady march of globalization present specific challenges. Issues like product and infrastructure visibility, or supplier relationship management can be difficult in this new landscape.

There could be language barriers, compliance issues for multiple country’s different regulations, and the need to track thousands of stock keeping units (SKUs) over a number of warehouses. Without a well-thought out plan, your business is left unprepared and even seemingly minor hiccups can result in major problems.

To combat this, your company should build out its global procurement network. This helps with overall communication and compliance issues. The more information you have about your supply chain, the better.

To achieve higher product or infrastructure visibility, there are a wealth of software-based solutions. Through the adoption of an integrated IoT platform, you can track product throughout the entirety of your warehouses to ensure integrity.

These kind of solutions can also help you maintain your infrastructure and give you the ability to quickly diagnose and fix problems. This prevents downtime and keeps your supply chain strong.

Data overload impacts the supply chain

While supply chain management software and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are crucial for businesses today, the amount of data collected from these programs can be massive. Technology giant Cisco estimates that by the end of the year, IoT will generate more than 500 zettabytes of data per year. For reference, a zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes.

Your company should understand what information is useful and relevant. This can be a daunting task, but it’s necessary to ensure you’re not collecting mountains of useless data that doesn’t provide actionable insights.

You may need to hire more data scientists to analyze the supply chain and figure out what data is valuable, where it should be collected and how it should be used. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used more and more to do a good amount of this analysis. However, you will still need a data professional to monitor the AI systems and to ensure it is staying in line with the goals of the company.

Customer service counts

Consumers have a wide variety of choices regarding where they’re going to spend their money. This has led consumer expectations to rise, and if your supply chain isn’t meeting those expectations, you can expect to lose customers.

Someone who orders a product from you, but receives it late, gets the wrong product or not at all means that not only will that customer will be lost, but your company’s reputation may take a hit as well.

There are many outlets where frustrated consumers can let the world know about their gripes, which results in bad word of mouth which can sink a company. That is why businesses need to heavily invest in their technology platforms to ensure visibility and product integrity. This can mean anything from API integration for efficient data collection, to streamlined warehouse operations through automation.

With the market for warehouse automation systems poised to grow from $8.3 billion in 2018 to nearly $31 billion by 2022, your company could soon find itself in an non-competitive situation if it doesn’t develop a comprehensive strategy.

Managing talent acquisition and retention

Managing huge, complex supply chains and automated systems still requires the right talent. With the unemployment rate in the United States at 3.5%, competition is fierce between companies to attract top talent. Not only this, but employee retention is more challenging than ever.

The types of analytical minds you need to run supply chain operations need extensive training to be caught up to speed on all of your company’s procedures. If they are planning to leave after a few years, it hardly seems worth it to provide that kind of high-level training. Recent research show that up to 75%of workers don’t plan on staying for more than five years in the current jobs.

Supply chain managers need to be trained well in order to be high performers. Therefore, focus on keeping your top talent engaged and connected to the company. Keep them busy with high-profile projects, provide growth plans and give them the industry-standard perks they’ll want in order to not look for better opportunities.

Addressing rising costs

Operating more, larger warehouses means an increased cost of doing business. Add to that the rising costs of energy and labor, and you should be looking to trim the fat wherever it’s to be found.

Such actions could mean higher levels of automation, optimizing your workflows, examining your procurement plans used to identify the best vendors, outsourcing when necessary or utilizing predictive analysis to better forecast demand.

Preparing for unforeseen events

In the business world, unknown risks are everywhere. While it is difficult to plan for every contingency, you should have detailed plans in the event of unfortunate circumstances.

The frequency of natural disasters is increasing throughout the world. Trade deals between major political powers are tenuous at best and you never know when the next round of tariffs is going to be levied. Not preparing for these kinds of situations can leave your business reeling when they inevitably occur.

Your company should have a thorough Business Continuity Plan that details what should be done when there are unexpected disruptions to your standard operating procedures.


Help is here with X2nSat

Because of the the rapid advancement of technology and communication systems, your company can overcome these business challenges. X2nSat is a satellite telecommunications company that has been in business for 22 years, offering trusted solutions to connect your facilities and IoT platforms that will keep your business running smoothly.

Contact X2nSat for a consultation to discuss your present and future business needs.

About the Author

Cara is the marketing coordinator at X2nSat. She's a social media maverick, a content genius, and an author in her spare time. Writing and marketing are her true passions.