Modernizing Supply Chains for Resilience and Sustainability

Author: Andrew Simmons

Supply chain management is often regarded as one of the most complex and intricate processes in any industry. From delivering raw materials to a factory to ensuring finished goods arrive securely in their final destinations – individuals’ homes or local outlets – global supply chains require every type of transportation working in harmony to provide consumers with the goods they want and need. Over the years, these supply chains have become ever more intricate with globally connected companies and rising consumer expectations to receive the goods they want when and where they want them.  


Until recently, the “just-in-time” (JIT) supply chain management strategy was the leader, with businesses striving to optimize their supply chains to deliver the exact quantity of goods they expected to sell to each outlet, just in time to sell them. Recently, however, this has evolved due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, where companies were faced with unprecedented circumstances and widespread stock-outs for common goods – missed revenue from the company’s point of view. This prompted a reevaluation of the JIT mindset, steering more toward “just-in-case” (JIC) to accommodate spikes in buying behavior.  


Modern supply chains are striving to strike a delicate balance between these supply chain approaches, avoiding both inventory shortages that can lead to operational disruptions and missed revenue and excess stock that ties up working capital.   


In addition to operational efficiency, sustainability has emerged as a significant driver in supply chain modernization efforts. Organizations are increasingly mindful of their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, aligning their strategies with environmental goals. 


One of the key factors in both initiatives – finding the right balance of inventory delivered and maintaining compliance with key environmental, social, and governance (ESG) regulations – is the data that is collected at every stage of the supply chain. Today, successful organizations understand that effectively collecting and managing their supply chain data comprehensively is not just an opportunity to improve operations but a necessity for compliance with the new ESG regulations.   


Let’s take a deeper look into how to balance operational efficiency, sustainability, and compliance with new regulations for superior supply chains and business success.


How sustainability impacts modern supply chains 

Modern supply chains – and the data they can provide – significantly affects companies’ ability to streamline operations, improve transparency, and leverage data to drive improvements. 


Sustainability has become increasingly relevant in the context of supply chain modernization, as businesses recognize the importance of integrating eco-friendly practices and reducing their environmental footprint. However, even companies that aren’t inherently invested in sustainable initiatives must start paying attention to their environmental impact, as new regulations require organizations to start tracking and reporting on the emissions they create. 


On March 6, 2024, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced detailed rules to standardize climate-related disclosures to enhance transparency and accountability via environmental reporting. Here’s a breakdown of the key points in detail: 


  • Scope 1 – Direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: Businesses are required to track, report, and audit their direct GHG emissions. This includes company emissions from manufacturing processes, transportation fleets, and onsite energy production.   
  • Scope 2 – Indirect GHG emissions: The SEC’s rules also extend to indirect GHG emissions caused by operations. For example, businesses need to track, report, and audit GHG emissions associated with using utilities such as electricity, heating, and cooling in buildings owned or leased by the company.   
  • Scope 3 – Influenced GHG emissions: The new rules also cover GHG emissions that businesses influence, even if they are not directly responsible for generating them. This includes emissions from suppliers, contractors, or other entities in the company’s value chain.  While scope 3 is not yet required by the SEC, it seems likely that collecting and reporting on data relevant to scope 3 will be a requirement in the future. 


These new rules will transform organizations, especially in retail and manufacturing, requiring even established companies to reevaluate their strategies for production and supply chain management. Businesses will need to think critically about how they collect, manage, and validate relevant data across the full scope of their operations, including supply chain to comprehensively ensure accuracy and reliability.  


Companies must prepare to track and report on scopes 1 and 2 accurately. Non-compliance with these requirements will result in fines, although the specific penalty amounts remain undisclosed. Private companies are likely to experience the ripple effects of these rules in the coming years.   


This heightened scrutiny will likely drive investments in technologies and practices that enable better monitoring, reporting, and management of GHG emissions across the supply chain. This will require investments in accurate analytics, tracking technologies, and even new supply chain management software. Embracing technology-driven solutions will be crucial for businesses to effectively comply with the new rules and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.  


How companies can modernize their supply chains and prepare for compliance 

Let’s explore how companies can upgrade their supply chains and ensure compliance with regulations, focusing on using advanced technologies to develop network-wide inventory visibility and investing in accurate forecasting.  


Network-wide visibility into inventory 

Organizations need to prioritize gaining network-wide visibility into inventory. This involves implementing physical enhancements through IoT (Internet of Things) technologies or RFID (radio-frequency identification) systems to track every piece of inventory throughout the supply chain.   


However, it’s not just about tracking; organizations also need robust analytics capabilities to analyze and report on this data. Including risk management features such as alerts for low inventory levels or potential disruptions in the supply chain can also be beneficial, though more sophisticated options often require integrating AI models for deeper insight.  


Implementing such advanced inventory management systems comes with challenges. Companies must carefully evaluate data collection, integration, and analysis options. They need to balance the capabilities of off-the-shelf inventory systems with customized solutions, considering data accuracy, scalability, and cost-effectiveness.   


Governance and data quality are additional hurdles, especially concerning integrating AI capabilities into inventory management processes. Ensuring reliable data sources and establishing governance frameworks are crucial for the accuracy and reliability of AI-driven insights. Clear guidelines and monitoring mechanisms are required to address potential issues promptly and maintain the integrity of inventory management practices.


Effective forecasting systems 

Striking an optimal balance between JIT and JIC supply chain strategies is crucial for a streamlined supply chain strategy that minimizes waste without leaving the company vulnerable to market fluctuations. Equally important is ensuring the seamless availability of all essential materials within the supply chain to meet operational demands.  This requires an effective forecasting system that delivers accurate and timely insight into consumer demand. 


Depending on their data ecosystem and organizational needs, companies can either rely on pre-built forecasting solutions or build their own.  


Many modern platforms offer built-in forecasting systems to aid in supply chain management. However, these systems come with their own set of challenges. Companies must fully evaluate their system in relation to their specific forecasting needs, weighing the associated costs and benefits. While off-the-shelf forecast models can be simple to implement, they often lack the flexibility to navigate uncertainties effectively and customize models to individual business needs.   


Efficient forecasting models must include external factors and integrate third-party data, such as economic conditions and market variables, to provide actionable and reliable insight. In addition, it is often beneficial to select a forecasting tool that uses stochastic modeling, which provides likelihood of multiple possible outcomes to help businesses make more informed decisions and better manage inventory. This is paramount for supply chain resilience and enabling agile planning amidst evolving business environments.      


Only with both network-wide inventory visibility and effective forecasting insights can organizations fully optimize their supply chain ecosystem. With pressing needs to improve supply chain resilience, reduce costs, and deliver transparency into GHG emissions, the ability to collect, manage, and run predictive analytics based on supply chain data has never been more important than it is today. 


Innovating for supply chain resilience, compliance, and sustainability  

The increasing demands on companies to optimize supply chain performance and provide accurate sustainability reports is not just about meeting regulatory requirements, but also responding to heightened expectations from consumers and investors.  


To tackle these challenges, companies must have a good understanding of their existing supply chain performance. By utilizing the power of data and analytics, they can gain in-depth insights into their supply chain’s environmental impact, determine areas that need improvement, and create targeted strategies for enhancing sustainability and other measures. 


At Wavicle, our expertise in supply chain data and analytics allows us to craft customized solutions that align with your business needs. Be it tracking, transparency, or forecasting, our experts can offer their guidance and support. Get in touch to find out how our solutions can help your business achieve its supply chain and sustainability goals.