Complex Supply Chain Problems and Simple Solutions

All supply chains operating across global markets have had to deal with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 alone, as many as 35% of companies experienced delays in cross-border transportation, among a host of other issues.1 

These setbacks have magnified both new supply chain challenges and those present since the onset of globalisation. Now, with first-hand experience of the operational and financial setbacks posed by leaving these challenges unaddressed, the identification of solutions has gone from a back-of-house consideration to a priority for businesses.

Despite some assumptions that complex supply chain problems require convoluted and complex solutions, the fact that global trade is already enjoying a swift recovery suggests that these issues may be easier to manage than previously thought. 

At Data Interchange, we’ve spent decades helping businesses across a range of industries overcome supply chain and supplier management challenges with the help of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

In this article, we will look at complex supply chain problems and the surprisingly simple solutions available to businesses. Let’s get started. 

A lack of accuracy

Regardless of how smoothly a supply chain runs in theory, a lack of accuracy at any stage can prevent the efficiency and overall levels of performance necessary for prolonged success. 

Problems of this nature can stem from inaccurate or incomplete data across global supply chains that are already operating in difficult circumstances, the pandemic aside. Unfortunately, supply chain managers will struggle to ensure high-quality products or efficient lead times if inaccuracies are reported in crucial processing data.

There are a number of areas where inaccuracy can creep into supply chain operations, including:

  • Product descriptions
  • Universal part or product codes
  • Product imagery
  • Part lists
  • Product specifications

How EDI can help

By eliminating the risks of inaccuracy posed by human errors, including illegible handwriting, lost documents, and repeated manual mistakes, the digitised sharing of supply chain documents facilitated by EDI is a cost-effective way to save time and increase the accuracy of reporting. 

EDI’s ability to improve real-time communications is becoming imperative, ensuring that documents don’t quickly become outdated or irrelevant. Instead, accurate, up-to-date information is easier to access and maintain than ever before.

Trading partner relationships 

Global supply chains have drastically enhanced the reach and profitability of trade partnerships, but growing distances can also pose problems within trading partner relationships. Issues including logistical communication barriers, incompatible technology, and high levels of pressure in modern supply chains can all prevent the trust and efficiencies on which effective trading partner relationships should ideally rest. 

This is a significant problem, and can hinder the benefits of effective supply chain relationship management, including the ability to reduce costs, align technologies, and ensure open and honest communication. In extreme cases, an inability to foster positive partner relationships can even result in unfulfilled agreements, and the need to onboard new suppliers at a typically high operational and monetary cost.

How EDI can help

Effective communication that provides operational ease and transparency to all partners across the supply chain is becoming a supplier relationship management touchstone. This is made possible through EDI solutions that streamline transactions and communication through the seamless digital exchange of relevant business documents. 

Modern approaches to EDI are proving pivotal in the creation of positive relationships across even the most complex global chains, making it possible to overcome legacy EDI setbacks, including incompatible standards and complex onboarding. For example, modern EDI solutions offer the ability to smoothly integrate with partners with little to no EDI experience, thereby accelerating the seamless sharing of files across the supply chain.

Limited supply chain visibility

For global supply chains, in particular, increasingly limited levels of visibility have led to a range of escalating issues, including a lack of accuracy and difficult supplier relationships. 

Reduced visibility can be a particularly pressing issue when operations are already facing a range of other challenges. The result leaves a number of desirable supply chain outcomes out of reach, including:

  • Risk foresight
  • Positive partnerships
  • Optimised inventory management
  • Planned supply chain activities
  • Resilient supplier management

How EDI can help

Fundamentally intended to increase visibility by facilitating communication and efficiency across even global supply chains, the digital file transfers possible with EDI are the driving force for improvements here. 

Whilst undoubtedly improving visibility, legacy EDI solutions have their limitations. By comparison, modern EDI solutions make it far easier for all partners to operate across global supply chains. Real-time file transfers offer a previously unattainable level of visibility, allowing supply chain managers to better understand how the supply chain operates and where improvements can be made to optimise outcomes.

The struggle for efficiency

As companies all around the world learnt the hard way during the COVID-19 pandemic, efficiency across the entire supply chain is fundamental both for a competitive advantage and, where significant disruptions are concerned, for survival at even a base level. 

As a result, there’s a strong argument to be made that many of the complex challenges that supply chains experience tie back into one simple but common issue — a general lack of efficiency. 

From visibility to relationships and beyond, everything that you do within a supply chain is leading towards the ultimate goal of efficiency, the achievement of which can open the doors for not just exceptional functioning, but also the optimisations of everyday processes, such as:

  • Request fulfilment
  • Timely delivery
  • Budget management

In light of the increasing focus on business continuity and flexibility, efficient processes that make it easier to forecast and react to real-time changes in demand and operation are imperative for success. 

How EDI can help

By making it possible to share digital files seamlessly and in real-time, regardless of supplier distances, EDI inherently minimises the risks posed by inefficiency. Furthermore, Modern EDI solutions look set to further improve efficiency within global supply chains with the help of:

  • One-source storage of all supply transactions
  • Access to data that helps facilitate improved forecasting, risk assessments, and decision making
  • Smooth onboarding processes
  • Holistic supply chain oversight

Modern solutions are available

Many of these problems played their part in bringing a number of supply chains to a standstill during the early days of the pandemic. Fortunately, there is good news moving forward. Modern, high-quality solutions that hold the key to long term supply chain success are here.

At Data Interchange, we call this new, flexible approach to EDI that combines elective managed services with digital tools EDI-as-a-Service. By updating the processes and capabilities already attainable with legacy EDI, this modern advancement offers solutions that can seamlessly and simplistically resolve some of the most complex issues arising from supply chain management. 

As well as offering the real-time communication and supply chain oversight that has already led to EDI adoption across 85% of companies, the cloud-based backing of EDI-as-a-Service is combined with managed services.2 The result is proactive, expert support that acts as an extension of your business, enabling smooth integrations and enhanced data visibility that translate to a competitive advantage for businesses. 

Book a demo today to see how your organisation can utilise these benefits and overcome complex issues within the supply chain.

Further reading: For more on how EDI can help deliver improved outcomes for your business, check out our free eBook — The Supply Chain Centred Business 


1Impact of the coronavirus pandemic on supply chains across industries 2020
2EDI Trends: The Future of EDI for 2021

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