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Harvard Business Review on Sustainable Supply Chains

Learn why technology-enabled supplier collaboration could hold the key to more sustainable supply chains.


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Published: July 5, 2023

The magnitude of supply chain disruptions companies have faced in the past few years has left many companies at a crossroads of how to build resilient supply chains that can handle the near-term and long-term uncertainties while keeping their businesses moving forward successfully.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review discusses the emerging technology that helps companies better collaborate with their supplier networks in order to make supply chains more efficient, sustainable, and able to withstand future disruption.

In the article, WestRock Co. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)—both of which are o9 clients—share their perspectives on how they are transforming their supply chains to become more agile and resilient across the following areas:

Rethinking supply chain operations

The unprecedented supply chain disruption and uncertainties over the last couple of years have been a catalyst for companies to focus on restructuring elements of their supply chain. WestRock is streamlining operations by implementing circular truck routes, creating more efficient boxcar loading processes, and providing customers with a product recycling pickup service in which trucks deliver materials to its recycling centers to reuse in new products, according to Peter Anderson, Chief Supply Chain Officer at WestRock.

Improving collaboration

Another aspect of creating more resilient supply chains is strengthening supplier relationships for greater visibility across the end-to-end supply chain. HPE has implemented a platform to unify and connect suppliers across each level of the supply chain so there is real-time visibility throughout the supply chain, said Joanna Kostecka, HPE’s Vice President of Global Operations Planning and Materials Management.

Embracing technology

As companies seek ways to optimize their supply chain, technology is becoming a critical component in responding proactively to potential disruptions. Specifically, technologies that are built on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) give companies the ability to analyze real-time data, assess risks and opportunities, and make necessary decisions to manage business goals and objectives. HPE is in the process of using a technology platform, powered by AI/ML to drive its “agile materials management” capabilities to gain visibility into its current orders and have the ability to see risks sooner and respond more proactively, which creates better outcomes for HPE and its customers, Kostecka said. WestRock is investing in technology platforms to obtain visibility across transportation and shipments, as well as to comply with governance requirements and determine any risks within its supplier network, Anderson said.

Supply chain predictability is no longer a given and the silver lining of the past couple years is that it is giving companies the impetus to completely rethink and transform their supply chain processes not only to handle today’s challenges but to become more resilient in facing future disruptions.

Read the full Harvard Business Review article here.

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