The past year has brought a lot of changes to supply chains. COVID-19 represented the single greatest disruption in global supply chains in a generation. Organizations have needed to contend with the health implications the virus had on their workforces, while also finding ways to maintain supply chains. COVID-19 and the recent blockage of the Suez Canal have only demonstrated how vital supply chains are to the function of our global economy, but these black swan events also have spurred organizations to find new ways to modernize and bolster their supply chains while also making them more transparent.

Earlier this week, ASUG hosted a virtual conference focused specifically on supply chains. ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Supply Chain dove straight into the rapidly changing world of supply chain management. Featuring SAP customers, supply chain thought leaders, and SAP experts, the two-day event helped attendees make sense of changes in this space, while also showing solutions available to help organizations increase the mobility and transparency of their supply chains and showcasing examples of customers leveraging new solutions and technology to improve the state of their supply chains. Here are some highlights from the conference.

Digitizing Supply Chains Is the Future

In March, ASUG published the ASUG State of Supply Chain Study for SAP Customers research. One of the top trends our research team gleaned was that many organizations are struggling with the rapid shift of technology in this space. Yet, implementing technology through digitization is a crucial way for organizations to improve their supply chains.

In the first session of the event, Martin Barkman, SVP and global head of solution management for digital supply chain at SAP, gave a keynote address on how organizations can bolster their supply chain resilience through digitalization. At first blush, some organizations might take what Barkman calls “reactive approaches” to bolstering their supply chains, which could be a mistake. Barkman encouraged companies to focus their attention on digitizing their supply chain processes and management.

“These reactive approaches are costly, take time to implement, and can be quite complicated,” he said. “What we found, especially during the pandemic, is that companies that have invested in digital approaches so supply chains can handle these disruptions better, faster, and at a lower cost.”

According to Barkman, digitizing supply chains can have numerous positive impacts on an organization’s supply chains. Using digital technologies and digitizing data can help organizations as they interact with both their customers and suppliers, along with leading to new revenue streams. Digitizing supply chains can also increase agility, productivity, connectivity, and sustainability.

How SAP Is Helping Organizations Digitizing Their Supply Chains

One of the other main themes of the conference focused on how SAP and its solutions can help organizations digitize their supply chains and improve resilience and transparency. In one session Matthew Tichelaar, director of SAP Business Network, walked attendees through how SAP Business Network can help improve supply chains. According to Tichelaar, the network economy calls for a network supply chain that is “resilient, agile, and flexible.” However, there are some roadblocks to this.

“Many companies are hindered by enterprise network systems,” Tichelaar said. “These are not designed for cross-company or cross-team collaboration.”

This inherently creates silos in organizations. Tichelaar then broke down SAP Business Network, describing how the solution can help companies overcome silos and improve their supply chains. SAP Business Network can help organizations “transform fragmented supply chains to unified, collaborative, and intelligent networks,” which can be used to minimize risk and increase agility. The solution consists of three networks: the SAP Ariba Network, the SAP Business Logistics Network, and the SAP Asset Intelligence Network. Tichelaar paid special attention to the SAP Ariba Network, discussing how the network can help “strength and amplify” supplier collaboration, while also helping organizations increase savings and visibility in their supply chains, while also reducing risks and inventory.

In a later session, Sandy Markin, senior director of SAP Digital Supply Chain, gave a session on SAP Digital Supply Chain, edition for SAP S/4HANA. This modular solution allows the advanced supply chain capabilities of SAP S/4HANA to be rolled out by organizations that are SAP ECC customers who aren’t ready for the full SAP S/4HANA implementation just yet, SAP S/4HANA customers who just started their implementation journey but need SAP Digital Supply Chain capabilities immediately, and new customer who are looking for a starting point for their SAP S/4HANA journey.

SAP Digital Supply Chain, edition for SAP S/4HANA gives customers access to solutions such as SAP S/4HANA Manufacturing for planning and scheduling, SAP Transportation Management, and SAP Extended Warehouse Management. The solutions can be deployed on-premises and in a private cloud landscape, with the option of a public cloud landscape coming soon.

Sustainability in Supply Chains

During the keynote on the second day, Tom Raftery, global VP, futurist, and innovation evangelist at SAP, gave a presentation on the intersection between sustainability, new technology, and supply chains. We walked attendees through some of the changes taking place in various sectors that will affect the way supply chains are run. Raftery touched on the growing work that world governments are putting in to increase the amount of renewable energy they are using.

“The global economy is going to become the climate economy,” he said, commenting on the plans that China, the U.S., and Europe have laid out to reduce their carbon footprints and increase their reliance on renewable sources of energy. He went on to discuss how the oil age is ending as technologies like solar and wind energy become cheaper. Raftery also touched on changes in manufacturing, connectivity, farming and food production, steel and concrete, electric transportation, and aviation to further underscore how much managing supply chains will change.

“This is your chance to be heroes,” he said told the supply chain professionals attending the event. “We have a big job ahead of us to reduce global emissions.”

ASUG will continue the conversation on leveraging new technologies to improve your business at ASUGFORWARD. Join us on June 21‒24 to hear from customers, thought leaders, and SAP experts on how you leverage SAP solutions to enhance the experience of both your customers and your employees. ASUG members also have exclusive access to executive programming on June 15‒17. Register now.