Could the combination of the pandemic and Brexit be the catalyst to drive real supply chain transformation?

From Blockchain to Artificial Intelligence, ‘next-generation’ technologies have long been tipped to transform and revolutionise supply chains. The list of potential benefits is both extensive and endearing; automation of processes, reduced operational downtime, greater operational performance and accuracy, improved relationships and communications with suppliers and other stakeholders, greater trust and integrity, etc.

It’s therefore hard to understand why we still talk of this revolution as having ‘potential’ and being in the ‘future’. Whilst it is true that certain organisations have successfully deployed such ‘next-generation’ technologies to parts of their operation, the revolution that is spoken of hasn’t really happened.

For these technologies to deliver true transformation and realise the revolutionary potential they have, large scale, cross-stakeholder adoption is required. If just one stakeholder involved in a supply chain utilises a Blockchain, some value will be delivered, but it will be limited. For the vision to hold water, all stakeholders involved in a supply chain network need to adopt the technology. It’s a bit like email. If only one stakeholder adopted email, value would have been limited.

History shows that large scale events have the capacity to drive real change. A large, external force felt equally by all stakeholders, unifying pain points, driving ambition to change. It may just be that the combination of the C-19 Pandemic and Brexit is that catalyst.

We are already seeing, as a result of the pandemic, a huge revolution in ‘work from home’. Clearly enabled by technology, businesses closed their offices in March, mobilising the work from home revolution we are all so familiar with now.

Realising revolution is perhaps a little more complex in supply chain. WFH takes one business closing their offices, independent of what other businesses around them decide to do.

For supply chain operators, they are more dependent on the other stakeholders involved. Everyone needs to move at the same time. With such diversity of companies involved in modern day supply chains, some will have felt the impact of the Pandemic more strongly than others. Therefore, the ambition to change of one company may not be shared with its partners.

The next milestone is very much on the horizon and that is of course Brexit. The combination of both the pandemic and Brexit may just be enough to unlock real supply chain transformation.

Brexit adds additional processes and will introduce new legislation that ALL businesses will be required to comply with. This, on top of the Pandemic may just be the external force that is felt commonly enough to drive real supply chain transformation.