Supply chains are becoming longer and more complex, the context in which they operate is continually evolving, and new technologies to manage them – such as digital and automation – are emerging with increasing frequency. Discussions around Digital Supply Chain and Supply Chain 4.0 are the heart of many organizations’ planning processes.

However, as with so many digital transformations, it’s hard for companies to know which technologies to adopt, and how to capture the full value available by making a sustainable step change and implementing them at scale.

This article will help you recognize all the technologies and concepts related to Supply Chain 4.0 that are relevant to planning, execution and management – in particular, digital supply chain planning (DSCP) and digital supply chain execution (DSCE).

What is digital supply chain planning (DSCP)?

Simply put, DSCP is an approach to planning for a supply chain that focuses on how “data will be shared, used, and stored by all participants.” Practitioners leverage an increasingly little understood set of technologies to constantly leverage data across the full value chain and the entire enterprise. For example, location intelligence, business analytics, and big-data platforms are now used at every level of a supply chain. These tools will eventually allow people in a company to collaborate on keeping better track of critical information (e.g., inventory levels) across the entire enterprise in real-time as it changes and evolves.

The benefits of DSCP are many: better understanding of supply chain trends and competitive threats, greater investment in best-in-class technology, and more precise alignment of people’s objectives.

What is Digital Supply Chain Execution (DSCE)?

DSCE is the process through which organizations actually “execute” plans to keep their supply chains on track. It includes both physical goods in transit and information associated with those goods, as they move from one person or device to another. People who participate in DSCE include not just the managers responsible for planning and executing a company’s supply chain, but also those who manage transportation assets, technology and logistics services providers, labor organizations such as transportation unions (e.g. the Teamsters Union), and others.

The term DSCP has a certain simplicity of intent; however, DSCE is more complicated than it sounds. Let’s take a look at four key facets that a firm must consider to execute its supply chain plan:

1. Getting the Right People Involved

People are at the heart of digital supply chain execution – everyone who participates in transport or logistics must have access to technology that supports their ability to keep track of the supply chain. In order for people to be able to execute DSCE, information about how a product moves from one place to another needs to be continuously available and accessible. This includes both physical shipments and information about the goods or information they’re carrying.

2. Technology Use Related to DSCP

While technology is not the main issue, it does need to be aligned with DSCP. Organizations have found that having technology that works with their current planning processes can make a difference: e.g., there’s a need for real-time information, and on-the-spot adjustments to plans if something changes during the course of the journey.

3. Change Management in Organizations

Organizations are often a large and complex network of different people. Thus, in order to fully implement DSCP there needs to be change management. This involves signing up people in the company to use the technology and have access to it; getting buy-in from as many people as possible can help an organization move forward with its plans for DSCP.

4. Collaboration Among Stakeholders

Part of the goal is knowing what other stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers and carriers know about developments within their own supply chain processes or events related to a product shipment – and then creating a system to share that information with all parties who need it.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways

Above all, we should remember that DSCP is not a new technology. Like many of the best practices associated with the digital supply chains, it’s simply an extension of existing best-practice methods – one heavily related to planning – that has been adapted to suit a new context. It’s an ongoing process that involves creating and communicating plans for how to execute those plans in an efficient way through the full value chain end-to-end.

In conclusion, DSCP makes it possible for people to take action on the information they need about a product shipment’s journey (i.e., execution) as it happens – thereby allowing them to act on that information in real-time.

Interested in reading more about the digital workplace? Business Operations – How it is Crucial For a Growing Business discusses how important business operations are for a business to grow successfully.

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