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Can tech ease pressure on the global supply chain?

(Source: Bigstock.)

It’s been a difficult period for the global supply chain. A general skills shortage at a time of increasing demand compounded by the disruption of Covid-19 and its variants has led to queues at fuel pumps, gaps on supermarket shelves, and a scarcity of a whole range of products, from white goods to microchips and construction materials. 

The impact is being felt heavily in Australia, and to varying degrees across the world. A solution has yet to be identified – while governments (Australia’s in particular) are emphasising training and investment within the logistics sector, others are positing the implementation of automation as a complete solution. 

The answer lies somewhere in the middle.   

What’s driving the supply chain problem? The difficulties are manifold. They began with Covid and the necessary cessation of productivity for manufacturers all over the world, starting with China. Responsible for 28.7 per cent of the world’s manufacturing output, China’s shutdown inevitably impacted the global supply chain, which was followed by varying degrees of lockdown in all other major manufacturing countries. The supply chain then experienced the inability to move goods that had already been produced. Container ships became stranded at closed ports, drivers got sick and were unable to work, and those who could work couldn’t always cross borders. While most pandemic-related restrictions have since been lifted, the fact is not all the supply chain problems are pandemic related. Increasing demand was already putting strain on the infrastructure then the great resignation came. 

Is there a role for technology in resolving the global supply chain crisis?  

As the supply chain crisis continues, some voices call for the implementation of technology to relieve pressure. With IoT (Internet of Things) and developments in automation, there is the possibility of full digitisation.

People continue to play a significant role in current global supply chain issues. Longstanding high employee turnover is also fuelled by employee dissatisfaction, with long hours, physical strain, and little structure that has only been compounded by the pandemic. These factors result in a more stressful working environment for employees. This stress is then exacerbated by low margins, which result in lower salaries and fierce labour competition. To combat these issues, we need faster onboarding that helps to build employee confidence, improved employee engagement, and more effective communication. 

Better onboarding via applications such as WorkJam sequences and orchestrates employee training systematically in an accessible mobile format, providing comprehensive information and support to new employees, whilst simultaneously relieving some of the pressure related to onboarding from managerial positions. It is vital to be aware that the issues present in employee retention can be impacted significantly by the quality of communication in a business. Enhanced communication channels with integrated inline translation and visual communication methods make it possible to transcend language barriers and accommodate those who need to communicate in their second (or even third) language. Specific communication channels can even be established in different languages to facilitate non-English speaking employees. Enhanced employee training provided within these targeted communication channels across the business’s chain of command. Live digitised task management systems ensure that jobs are completed according to priority, and smart scheduling can help prevent burnout, ensuring that no employee is overtasked.

Businesses also cannot overlook the importance of technology in compliance. Digitisation greatly assists with documentation and regulatory compliance, generating reports on standard operating procedures, employee training, and company communications. The demands on the global supply chain are only increasing. The integration of technology will provide the means to cope with both the current disruption and any issues that may arise in the future.