Emilia Dunaj
Emilia Dunaj
Head of Technology Insights
January 2024, 8 min. read

Embracing digital transformation for supply chain management is the best strategic move for your business right now. It completely changes how your supply chain works, using advanced technology and keeping you ahead in your market.

But what can you do to ensure your supply chain management digital transformation is a success?

To unlock its full potential, you need to create a strategic plan and build a supply chain transformation roadmap that guides you through every step.

In this article, we delve into the critical steps and expert insights needed to navigate your digital supply chain transformation effectively.

Create a vision of your supply chain digital transformation

Supply chain mapping is a practical way of providing you with a holistic view of your suppliers, processes, and logistics. It helps you understand your supply chain better, pinpoint bottlenecks, and uncover optimization opportunities. This visibility is essential for making well-informed decisions. 

To shape your vision, focus on these key components:

  • Decision-making: Advanced technologies, like machine learning (ML), can be used to modernize legacy systems, providing insights for smarter choices.

  • Automation: Streamline your supply chain through automation to enhance efficiency and free up resources for strategic initiatives. Consider automation solutions for routine processes.

  • Solid data: A vision built on reliable, accessible data ensures you’re making decisions based on accurate insights.

  • Digital skills and culture: Is your staff ready for the digital transformation? Encourage an innovative culture that embraces continuous improvement so your employees are ready to take on the new strategies. 

Supply chain digital transformation mapping helps you gain the clarity and insights needed to transition without stress or disruption. It ensures that all stakeholders involved in this change are well-informed and prepared for the shift.

5 steps to develop a supply chain digitization roadmap

supply chain digitization roadmap

Now that you have a vision for your supply chain digitization let’s delve into essential insights for developing your roadmap.

1. Define your supply chain digitization goals

Before diving into technological innovations, you need to define your digital supply chain objectives precisely. Establishing these goals will form the foundation for your entire transformation strategy.

Your goals should adhere to the SMART framework. This means they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Furthermore, these objectives should align seamlessly with your broader business goals.

For instance, if you are a car manufacturer, you might aim to enhance customer satisfaction by reducing delivery times, optimizing inventory management for cost reduction, or improving supply chain visibility to mitigate risks.

By clarifying your objectives, you gain a clear sense of direction for your transformation efforts. Additionally, it becomes easier to establish benchmarks that measure your success. 

Those benchmarks can encompass various metrics, such as reduced lead times, decreased inventory costs, or increased on-time deliveries. For a car manufacturer, a benchmark could be reducing the time it takes to source and deliver critical components, leading to more efficient production processes and satisfied customers.

2. Assess your current digital capabilities

The next step involves understanding where you currently stand. Assessing your company’s current digital capabilities helps you take the right path for your future digitalization. It helps spot strengths to leverage and identify gaps needing attention.

So, how do you assess this? Start by evaluating your technological infrastructure, software systems, and data management practices. Consider how well digital tools like data analytics, IoT, or cloud computing are integrated into your supply chain operations. You should also assess your team’s skills in using these tools effectively.

Map out and review your supply chain processes and workflows. Are they optimized for efficiency, or do they have bottlenecks that need addressing? What about your visibility? Are you getting real-time insights into inventory levels, demand forecasts, and supplier performance?

To make this process more accessible and effective, consider turning to experienced software consultants for a digital consulting session. Their expertise will guide you through this step, making it easier to understand your starting point and highlighting areas that require change. 

With a clear assessment in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to proceed to the next phase of your digital transformation in supply chain.

3. Explore and evaluate digital supply chain technologies

The digital supply chain management solution marketplace is vibrant, brimming with innovative technologies that hold the promise of transforming your operations. There are tons of available ready-made applications on the market to choose from. 

But how do you know which solutions are right for your business? The answer lies in carefully selecting and integrating technologies that align with your defined goals and objectives.

As you explore, consider these crucial factors:

  • Compatibility – How well does this technology integrate with your existing systems? A seamless fit minimizes disruptions and streamlines implementation.
  • Flexibility – Think about your long-term growth. Opt for technologies that can scale with your business, adapting to changing needs without requiring major overhauls.
  • Data management – Evaluate how this technology handles information. Secure storage and efficient data management are critical for decision-making and insights.
  • Deployment ease – How swiftly and efficiently can this technology be deployed? Will I need external specialists to implement it? A streamlined deployment process reduces downtime and ensures a smooth transition.
  • ROI potential: Analyze the potential return on investment (ROI). Will this technology contribute to cost savings, improved efficiency, or enhanced customer satisfaction?

When off-the-shelf solutions are not enough for your business, custom-developed software ticks all your boxes. Bespoke software is designed to align perfectly with your business processes, ensuring optimal efficiency and performance. By addressing your specific challenges, these custom solutions can provide you with a competitive edge in your industry.

Additionally, custom software remains adaptable to changing market conditions and growing needs. Plus, software development companies usually take on the burden of integrations and deployment processes.

4. Develop a detailed implementation plan

With the appropriate technology selected, the next phase is its implementation. Crafting a comprehensive plan is essential for seamless integration into your existing system. 

Your plan should cover aspects like technical specifications, timeline, resource allocation, and contingency strategies.

Below is an example template of a manufacturing company’s digital transformation strategy roadmap. It includes establishing objectives, defining deliverables, and measuring digital transformation results.

Example template of a supply chain digital transformation strategy roadmap

Training your supply chain team on the new technology is key to successful adoption. Your employees who will be using this new technology need to understand it to be able to master it. To achieve this, organize tailored training sessions. Focus on practical applications and problem-solving scenarios. This will help your team leverage the technology to its full potential. 

Think about real-life scenarios your team might face and train them to handle these efficiently. 

For example, consider a situation where your team needs to rapidly adjust supply levels in response to a sudden change in market demand. Training them to use predictive analytics tools within the new AI supply chain software can help them make fast, data-driven decisions, ensuring a swift and effective supply chain adaptation.

However, planning and training are just the start. You’ll also need to keep an eye on how the new system is performing. Set up ways to track its impact on your supply chain, like improvements in delivery times, inventory accuracy, or cost reductions. Be ready to adjust your strategy to keep your supply chain not just running but excelling.

All the above are usually covered in a scoping session with an experienced software development team dedicated to technical project planning. This workshop provides clarity and business vision evaluation, ensuring your digital supply chain stays flexible, quick to respond, and always a step ahead.

5. Define roles and responsibilities in digital supply chain project 

In your digital supply chain transformation project, it’s critical to clearly define who does what. Start by listing all the supply chain processes that will be impacted or upgraded. From procurement to logistics, identify every key stage.

Then, assign specific roles focusing on these supply chain stages. Who will manage supplier relationships? Who will oversee inventory management with the new system? Ensure each team member knows their area of responsibility, whether it’s in sourcing materials, managing warehouse operations, or handling distribution channels.

Clear communication is vital in any project. Nearly half of respondents in a recent survey agree that ineffective communication affects job satisfaction, while 42% claim it affects stress levels. Everyone in your project team should understand their tasks and know how their role fits into the larger supply chain picture. Regular meetings can help align everyone’s efforts, keeping the project on track.

Key elements of a digital supply chain roadmap 

The rapid move towards new technologies and automation for industries is unstoppable. For supply chains, this means a significant shift towards digitalization, bringing unmatched efficiency, insight, and agility. Businesses that underestimate the transformative power of these technologies or fail to plan strategically risk falling behind the curve.

Mapping out your digital supply chain involves several key steps. Start with understanding your current operations and identifying areas ripe for digital enhancement. The key to this process is choosing solutions that align with your unique business objectives. Ensure your team is confident in using new systems. Training and continuous skill development are essential to fully harness the power of digital tools.

Equally important is setting up mechanisms for ongoing evaluation and adaptation. A digital supply chain strategy is a responsive one, able to adjust swiftly to market changes and new opportunities.

Your supply chain roadmap is unique to your business. Adjust it to suit your specific needs and objectives. 

→ Start building your future-ready supply chain today. If you would like to learn more about AI-driven supply chain automation, read our Guide to Supply Chain Automation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What is digital transformation in supply chain?
    Digital transformation in supply chain is a strategic use of advanced technologies like AI, IoT, and automation to enhance and modernize your supply chain processes. It aims to improve efficiency, visibility, and responsiveness in managing the flow of goods and information.
  2. What is supply chain roadmap?
    A supply chain roadmap is a strategic plan outlining the steps and milestones needed to achieve supply chain goals. It helps supply chain leaders visualize and navigate the journey toward supply chain optimization, incorporating technologies and process improvements.
  3. What is digital SCM (Supply Chain Management)?
    Digital SCM, or digital supply chain management, means using digital technologies and data-driven solutions. Going digital optimizes supply chain processes thanks to using advanced technologies like blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence AI, cloud computing, and robotics. Your managers gain end-to-end visibility to make informed decisions. Your supply chain becomes efficient and agile.
  4. What are the digital technologies for supply chain?
    Digital technologies for supply chain include IoT sensors for real-time tracking, artificial intelligence and machine learning for insights, strategies, and predictive analytics, cloud computing for data storage and accessibility, and automation for streamlined processes. These technologies work together to improve your supply chain performance.
  5. What is an example of digital transformation in the supply chain?
    One digital transformation supply chain example is using IoT sensors to monitor the condition of perishable goods during transportation. These sensors provide real-time data, enabling better decision-making, reducing waste, and ensuring product quality.
  6. What is the difference between traditional supply chain and digital supply chain?
    Traditional supply chains rely heavily on manual processes and lack real-time data visibility. On the contrary, digital supply chains use advanced technologies to automate tasks and provide data-driven insights. This enhances their agility, making them more efficient and responsive to market changes.