Supply Chain Ecosystems: A Change in Perspective

What is a supply chain ecosystem and why is it important for the rail industry? First let’s take a brief look at the context: 

Supply chains have existed for as long as trade. From the Silk Road to the East India Trading Company and beyond. Early on, the supply chain was simple: a horse, mule, or camel delivered products from local sellers, and it was distributed to local buyers, usually for trade.  

As time went on more trade routes developed, turning into networks. Advancing technology meant that products could get further faster and in better condition with refrigeration, rail networks, air transportation and storage facilities. 

Today our global trade systems are more complex than ever spanning across oceans and continents. Hundreds of thousands of supply chains and trade routes intersecting every day and, within each, hundreds of systems, and possibilities. Real supply chain success is found by assessing all the segments of the supply chain, from people to processes, technology and financials – the components of A Supply Chain Ecosystem. 


What is a supply chain ecosystem? 

Put simply, a supply chain ecosystem considers the environment and conditions in conjunction with the supply chain itself.  

Think about natural ecosystems as a comparison: When a species is declining in population biologists consider the environment. Do the animals have sufficient food? Is their habitat conducive to breeding? Has there been an increase in their predators? Has the environment been experiencing drought or unusual temperature fluctuations? 

Natural ecosystems can be so delicate that one offset can affect all organisms creating a chain effect. The same is true of your supply chain. 

Sometimes we focus on our particular component of the supply chain, limiting our view of the larger network that might give valuable information for creative solutions. Or, as the cliché goes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. 

Supply chain ecosystems are about considering the larger picture. Material planning supply chain, logistics supply chain dynamics, and consumer Supply chains all bring different challenges, aspects, programs and people but the same principle applies. By considering a full picture of your people and processes your supply chain can transform into an ecosystem and promote a holistic strategy. 

The past few years have seen a plethora of supply chain issues due to Covid-19 related delays around the world. This has also meant a stronger awareness of supply chain ecosystems as issues arise one after the other, shining light on the overlap of supply chains.  

Overcoming Supply Chain Issues 

There is no denying that supply chains have seen their fair share of issues in recent years. The gaps and delays are frustrating for customers and affect your bottom line.  

Of course, these frustrations are valid pain points, but allow us to present a reframe: 

Think about how these times as Data Plan Pivot Points for your supply chain. What does that mean for you? Consider this:

Problems that might not have been noticed prior are brought to the forefront, take stock.

Take a hard look at what the upsets are that you are experiencing including excess fees, lag times, and pinch points. Mapping these data points will help to decide if there is a persistent issue or a one-time problem. 

Collect Data, there’s so much more than you think.

You’ve been presented with an opportunity to harness data like never before! Take it. Of course, this is more easily said than done and having a data repository with reporting features and technology that prioritizes accuracy and your data collection needs. Using a platform like Trinsight (formerly known as Quasar) allows you to effortlessly leverage data you collect to inform strategic decisions and crisis management. 

Implement a data strategy to build your ecosystem understanding.

Choosing to see opportunity where others see endless problems can change your supply chain to an ecosystem by shifting perspective from a one issue solution to creating a healthy network through data. Implementing a supply chain management solution like Trinsight creates a live map of your railcars and rail yard to show you what exactly is happening. This digital twin acts as an information asset and reporting tool that will enhance your supply chain health and contribute to long-term success. 

Mindset shift can be just the edge you need in challenging times. Viewing supply chains as an ecosystem will revolutionize the way you make decisions for your business and create a fulsome understanding bringing you to new heights. 

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