Supply chain security: Navigating disruptions in a digital economy

The disruptions of the past few years have exposed many issues for businesses – among them a lack of supply chain security. During the pandemic, supply chain theft reached an all-time high, creating logistical nightmares for service providers and magnifying the need for greater security. Consider cargo that collects outside warehouses or at shipping ports.

Unattended goods that sit in one location create opportunities for criminals to sweep in and steal them. It is important for businesses to consider the repercussions of such thefts – business disruptions, revenue loss, increased operating costs, and more. This warrants the implementation of a new strategy to increase security and safeguard the organisation.

Challenges of a digital world

An increasingly digital universe can contribute to supply chain security risks. We can credit the expansion of this digital universe to the pandemic. While e-commerce certainly existed pre-COVID, online selling grew exponentially during the pandemic. Businesses benefited from the increase in online sales, and the ability to reach consumers through a new medium.

But the rise in online purchases and deliveries also offers more opportunities for criminals to infiltrate the supply chain by targeting delivery trucks and freight trains. This points to a need for guardrails. Without them, criminals have free reign to steal goods and sell them online.

Businesses can address this risk

All hope is not lost! There’s plenty that businesses can do to practise supply chain security and curb theft of goods. Organisations need to modernise or design new business processes that can withstand potential attacks from criminals with sophisticated tools.

  • Conduct risk assessments with your trading partners. Such assessments should be aimed at identifying vulnerable suppliers, helping them be more resilient, and weeding out those that can’t. Further, organisations can digitise processes and enable B2B transactions across the supply chain. This will provide real-time visibility and make it easier to identify weak points.
  • Raise awareness among your partners’ employees. Partners must be educated on the risks and potential implications of supply chain crime. They should be just as adept at preparing for and tackling risks. Long-term survival of a business depends on the collaboration among partners to reduce such risks.
  • Embrace data intelligence. Rather than solely relying on GPS data to track the whereabouts of their containers and trucks, organisations can leverage data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) tools to track the movement of criminals who infiltrate the supply chain and steal high-value items.

Besides, data about the location of goods will help streamline the logistics process and keep goods moving. This ties in well with good logistics planning. A well-planned and executed logistics process that keeps freight moving will go very far to mitigate shrinkage.

No business plan can forgo cargo cybersecurity. To stage fictitious pickups, criminals can rely on cyber breaches to obtain critical information like delivery times, and the names of service workers unloading or managing cargo. Supply chains have become an attractive target for online threat elements, and we cannot take data management practises for granted.

Businesses need to reassess their data collection and network protection practises. An important component of this should be setting up guardrails to prevent any potential leaks.

Even with a wide range of technology tools at their disposal, organisations continue to struggle with supply chain safety today. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for managing supply chain crime. However, with the right mix of risk assessment, data analytics, and cybersecurity, businesses can take significant steps in preparing for a more secure future.

Chris Willcocks is the Vice President & Head of Intelligent Spend Management at SAP Australia and New Zealand.