COVID-19 and Brexit Disruption the Biggest Concerns for Supply Chain Professionals in 2021

For supply chain and procurement professionals, the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit caused unprecedented disruption to global supply chains. Organisations’ top concern in the UK when considering business recovery was the scale and complexity of globalisation (68%), while two-thirds (66%) said COVID-19 was their second-biggest concern, according to a study from commercial data and analytics provider, Dun & Bradstreet.

The Resilient Supply Chain report surveyed over 500 supply chain professionals in the UK and found almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents expect COVID-19-related economic disruption to impact their procurement operations this year, and according to Dun & Bradstreet’s COVID-19 Commerce Disruption Tracker, 97% of UK businesses have already been disrupted as a result of the pandemic.

Of the top three largest threats posed to businesses, COVID-19 was cited by respondents as the biggest factor (23%). In addition, nearly one in five viewed International trade disputes (18%) and deglobalisation (18%) – including Brexit – as two of the top three external factors to pose a threat.

In terms of their greatest challenges, 40% of those surveyed viewed the ability to maintain useful and timely supplier profiles across multiple systems as their primary challenge in 2021. It’s no surprise, then, that one of supply chain professionals’ top priorities for the year is to better monitor their supplier performance (34%) and having better visibility into supplier spend (34%), which were only preceded by improving operational efficiency (37%). These were followed by more extensive use of new technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) — to achieve supply chain insights (33%) and mitigating or decreasing third-party risk (32%).

Central to this challenge of managing supplier data within their procurement and supply chains is the ability to maintain useful and timely supplier profiles across multiple systems (40%), share data across the organisation to inform decision making (39%) and obtain actionable insights from stored and collected data (36%).

Chris Laws, Head of Strategy and Product at Dun & Bradstreet said: “Nothing could have prepared businesses for the impact that the coronavirus pandemic would have on global supply chains. The change was swift and sudden, leaving vulnerable businesses little time to prepare with the fallout of disrupted supply and increased exposure to risk. Fast forward one year and organisations are still reeling from the disruption, but they are investing in technology and more importantly, a data-driven approach to effectively manage supply chains.

“Procurement and compliance teams are under pressure to deal with third-party risk and with data they can make informed decisions on the suppliers they work with, the places they outsource to and potential nefarious actors that may damage a business’ infrastructure. Only by developing this holistic view of potential suppliers and accruing a greater depth of information on known suppliers can organisations build for a future post-COVID-19.”

As for the key priorities for the year ahead, businesses are now preparing for a year where technology and data sits at the heart of supply chain operations. A third (33%) indicate that digital transformation would be their organisation’s top priority in 2021. This has started taking place to a degree, with procurement teams already using technology to support supplier risk assessment, such as ongoing monitoring (42%), workflow software (39%) and AI/automation (37%).

Looking ahead, this is already taking shape with 85% saying that at least half of their processes are automated and more than half (55%) having mostly or completely automated their supply management process.

To help organisations manage poor visibility into their supply chains and third-party suppliers due to disconnected supplier data, disparate systems, and inadequate data sources, Dun & Bradstreet has recently launched D&B Risk Analytics which is now available in the UK. The solution provides supply and compliance teams with intelligent supplier data and insights to best protect their organisation’s revenue and reputation from third-party risks. D&B Risk Analytics integrates live business updates – pulled from the company’s Data Cloud – into software to automate the supplier management process allowing supply chain leaders to:

  • Unlock Insights – Access Dun & Bradstreet’s Data Cloud to augment records with attributes such as negative business events, entity insight, diversity certifications, and ultimate business ownership connections to better understand supplier relationships.
  • Screen Suppliers – Screen third parties within a supplier portfolio with Dow Jones and Dun & Bradstreet data, using intelligent workflows to increase efficiency.
  • Locate Alternative Suppliers – Leverage Dun & Bradstreet’s Data Cloud to identify alternative suppliers by industry, location, size, socio-economic and diversity data and more.
  • Monitor Suppliers – Proactively monitor suppliers and receive notifications of screening checks and suppliers’ viability to prevent supply chain disruption.
  • Assess Their Supplier Portfolio – Proactively assess a supply chain portfolio on an ongoing basis to identify financial risk activity, diversity status, usage and entities that are due for screening.