Three Questions

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SCMAP Supply Chain Conference

Next week we at SCMAP are mounting our first in-person event in two and a half years. The 2022 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference – still the most prestigious event in Philippine supply chain – returns to the EDSA Shangri-la in Mandaluyong, although you can also take part virtually if you can’t fly in to Manila.

This year’s theme is “One Supply Chain Moving Forward”, acknowledging how the best way to address current and future challenges is to come together, recognize common interests, and fight for shared goals. This isn’t some lofty ambition. This is something we have done, with other stakeholders from the public and private sectors, in the past few years. Thanks to a greater recognition of the important role of the supply chain sector in keeping the economy going, we have been able to push for policy and regulatory reforms. We now have a seat at the table, and an even stronger voice to go with it, which came in handy as the Philippines plunged into lockdowns in 2020. The pace of change may be slow to some, but we are still on the path – and we are in a better position to get ready for future disruptions.

Our conference will specifically dive into three questions that we think will impact the way we in the supply chain sector serve our partners, contribute to the economy, and uplift fellow Filipinos in the years to come.

How do we deal with changing expectations? We are working through the long-term effects of the disruptions COVID-19 presented to global supply chains. Costs are higher. Logistical bottlenecks still abound. Our customers demand faster deliveries – and no delays. (And if things don’t go their way, they can always turn to social media to vent.)

To illustrate, one key finding of the most recent Logistics Efficiency Indicators survey commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry is customers putting a bigger premium on reliability over other factors, such as cost and speed. In 2017, 37% of respondents chose reliability as the most important indicator of logistics performance. That percentage ballooned to 77.5% this year, a sign of shifting priorities undoubtedly fueled by pandemic uncertainty.

These changing expectations also impact the role of supply chain in specific sectors of the economy. Take agriculture. Now that we’re talking about shortages (and, inversely, in some cases, excess stock) of certain products again, the question lingers: how do we make sure that we can quickly deliver products from our farms to our stores, making them a more competitive choice for customers? How do we also make sure that there is food on the table for families regardless of whether it’s sunny or terribly stormy outside?

How do we take care of our people? The pandemic has also highlighted the condition of those working in the supply chain sector, whether logistics frontliners or those working in back office roles. We all know a career in supply chain can be a demanding and thankless, and with the new emphasis on employee welfare and mental health – plus buzzy phrases such as “quiet quitting” and “the Great Resignation” – we have a finer balance to make between our teams’ wellbeing and their ability to do what is asked of them.

Technology also plays an important role in taking care of our people. Many solutions, both hardware and software, already abound that make complex tasks easier, and recent years have seen their price points go down and be accessible to more businesses. But there is, again, a finer balance to make. There is an apprehension that technology will ultimately replace the people we are tasked to take care of, which is why some have been hesitant to embrace it. How do we get the best of both worlds and improve our efficiency and service levels as a result?

How do we embrace innovative thinking? In recent years we have seen new players across different aspects of the supply chain come in, leveraging technology to address long-standing challenges in aspects as diverse as transport, warehousing and retail. We have also seen established players respond by upping investment in innovative solutions and schemes to improve their value proposition to existing customers. “Digitalization” has been a buzzword for, I’ll say, decades now – but the pandemic has made it urgent and essential to every business. And yet, as mentioned earlier, some remain hesitant to embrace it, thinking it either too expensive or irrelevant to their needs.

But perhaps the question is not about “how do we make technology accessible?” but rather “how do we open our minds to the possibilities?” Technology is not the be-all and end-all, as some of the more prominent new players have illustrated. A good chunk of the success of firms such as Locad and GoCart is in identifying current needs and addressing it using existing resources, knowledge and expertise. How can we do the same for our operations?

We will be tackling these questions, and then some, in this year’s conference, with the help of key players across the supply chain sector: Rep. Bernadette Herrera, Anti-Red Tape Authority undersecretary Ernesto Perez, Nestlé’s Anderson Martins, LF Logistics; Joyce Ramos, Fast Logistics’ Manny Onrejas, DHL Supply Chain’s Katrina Soliveres, ShopSM’s Jayan Dy, and more to be announced soon. This, alongside an exhibit showcasing the region’s top supply chain products and services. It would be nice to see you in person again. Register now at scmap.org/events/conference/register – you have until this Friday to sign up. We look forward to seeing you as we become one supply chain moving forward.

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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