7 Most Common Digital Supply Chain Mistakes

digital supply chain

Supply chains are increasingly making the transition into the digital sphere.

The logistics industry is transitioning to digitalization with everything from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things to 5G networks and beyond. Alongside the “Amazon effect,” the goals of the digital supply chain include an increased focus on transparency, efficiency, and sustainability.

Digital supply chain technologies are driving improvements in regard to performance, and smart supply chain managers are taking notice like never before. To compete in today’s transportation and production industries and stay relevant, going digital is a must. 

How do you make a successful transition to a digital supply chain? 

We’ve listed the top 7 mistakes we see supply chain managers make during the digitalization transition—and how you can avoid them during your digital update. 


They get caught up in the “new” uses for digitalization

We’ve seen too many supply chain managers get over-excited by the prospect of the digital world. They try to start deploying robots, drones, AI and autonomous trucks… but their data collection isn’t even in the cloud yet. 

When you’re making the digital transition, start by automating processes that you’re already doing on a consistent basis. This automation will advance your business the most in the short-term and open up new pathways for additional advancements afterward. Plus, your team will be less resistant to the change if they see the positives of automation happening in their daily work. 

Don’t let the bright and shiny digital world pull you away from your main objectives. 

Key Tip: Make data collection a goal. Data fuels the digital system. Machine learning needs digital data to analyze, predict, and make decisions. The more data you can collect and automate, the more successful your digital supply chain will be. 


They’re too fast and furious

Don’t start automating everything and anything all at once. The biggest failures happen when managers take on too much too fast. The more massive the scope of the change, the more likely you’ll run into mishaps. 

You want lofty goals for your digital supply chain. But you also want a detail-oriented strategy that’s specific to your organization, so you can take one step at a time.

For example, you might first implement “big data” collection. Once your data is automated, you deploy predictive analytics software that helps you leverage that data to better understand and forecast trends for your business. 

Remember that slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to large-scale digital deployments. 


They don’t make long-term projections

It takes a lot of time and resources to make a digital transition. We’ve seen situations where organizations started the transition back in the ‘90s, and they’ve had to constantly overhaul every few years to keep up with the changing times. They expend enormous amounts of resources just to keep up. 

Because they’re not thinking about the future. They’re too busy catching up with “today’s” technology that they’re not thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow. 

It’s critical to keep your digital infrastructure flexible. You want to keep your system (and your team) open to the possibility of change at any moment. That means you’re strategizing for the future, even if you’re not sure exactly what the future will hold yet. 


They don’t think about the long-term sustainability

If you need someone updating your digital system every day, it’s not actually automated. Don’t make people input numbers into Excel after they’ve done the paperwork, for example. It’s not just about getting everything “online.” Digital supply chains are about streamlining and automating your processes from the inside out. As the saying goes, "more hands make for light work", and digitization is one of those hands!

Make sure that the way you’re digitizing creates less work and less responsibility—with greater transparency and efficiency.  

Read: Supply Chain AI—Is Your Company Ready?


They don’t designate a change leadership team

You could have the best technology in the world, but if your team isn’t on your side, the transition won’t take off. People are often resistant to change, especially if they’ve been in the business (doing the same thing) for years. You don’t want to spring a huge change on them and risk negative feelings towards the transition. If your team isn’t on board, you’ll end up in an even worse spot with low morale and an expensive digital system that isn’t used. 

The best way to ensure organizational competency during the transition to a digital supply chain is with a leadership team. One leader in each department should be designated to both implement the mechanics of the digital processes while training the team how to use it. More importantly, the leaders should be discussing the benefits of this new technology to ensure humans and machines work together synergistically. 

Your leaders need to believe in the digital transformation and disseminate that belief through the organizational culture. 


They don’t strategize human capital

Machines are going to take over some of today’s jobs. But that doesn’t mean supply chain workers will suddenly be out of a job. Rather, their roles will just change from manual tasks towards a greater focus on strategic decisions and big picture thinking. 

For example, autonomous trucks might one day be the primary mode of truck driving. But today’s truck drivers can be trained for dispatch or to work with AI to optimize routes. They might be present to oversee decision-making or handle safety concerns. 

It’s time to start looking at where digitalization might impact your workforce. It’s never too early to start training people for new types of positions, so you don’t end up behind the curve or with unnecessary layoffs. 


They don’t address their personal bias

Bias exists in every industry. It’s critical, though, to stay flexible to the changing world, especially as disruptive digital comes on the scene. 

Supply chain managers and leaders need to stay aware to the changes and potential growth. They must be willing to challenge traditional models of thinking and decision making to see the future for its possibilities, and not just what the past and present hold. 


Make the transition easy

Digital supply chains are the future of logistics. Although the specifics are still a little blurry, it’s important for organizations to start adapting to digital opportunities with forward-thinking strategies and plans.  

Is your organization prepared for the digital future? 

Check out Redwood Logistics’ innovative services that combine human-based creativity with technological advancements to enable custom, futuristic approaches to all of your supply chain needs.