How supply chain disruptions are ruining our lives, and what you can do about it

September 29, 2021 | 6 minute read
Terri Hiskey
Vice President, SCM and Manufacturing Product Marketing, Oracle
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I have an adorably cute little dog who’s unadorably high maintenance. She must have a certain type of chewy before she goes to sleep for the night, and if we run out of her chewies, she whines, cries and runs around our house until she wears herself out. We usually order these chewies from an online retailer that has overnight delivery, but due to supply chain issues, her chewies have been on back-order for the past month. We’ve tried other treats, but she is really partial to that specific treat, and so, we’re learning to live with the whining.  

Everyone seems to have a similar story – we can’t find the cookies our kids like, our new couch will take months longer to arrive than expected, school supplies like paper are out of stock, etc. These issues are leaving us frustrated, anxious, and angry, and it’s no wonder that Americans say supply chain disruptions are ruining their lives.

In fact, a new survey from Oracle on supply chain disruptions unearthed a bevy of interesting insights, including the fact 87 percent of Americans have been negatively impacted by supply chain issues over the past year. They’ve been unable able to purchase items, they’ve cancelled orders due to delays, and they’ve even started rationing items for fear of running out. And this is bad news for our favorite brands.

Will it ever end?

Almost half of Americans surveyed (45 percent) admit they never thought about the supply chain, or about how products were delivered, before the pandemic. Now nearly everybody (91 percent) considers it when they’re buying something—especially if they’re buying for someone else. Forty-three percent of respondents admit they’ve missed gifts for special occasions because of supply chain issues, and 66 percent are worried that the inability to buy the right items will ruin their holidays. And, surprisingly, men (24 percent) are twice as likely as women (12 percent) to cry over not being able to get the items they want or need. Supply chain issues are literally enough to make a grown man cry!

While Americans understand that supply chains are complex, that doesn’t make us more patient or sympathetic – and there’s widespread fear that the nightmare will continue. Eighty-two percent of people are scared that supply chain disruptions will ruin their life plans, 92 percent believe there will be more supply chain disruptions in the future, and two-thirds (66 percent) are scared that the disruptions will never end.

If companies don’t act quickly to solve these problems, they’ll feel the impact on their bottom line – 84 percent of people say delays would cause them to cancel their order, and 80 percent say delays would cause them to stop buying from a brand altogether.

So what can brands do to keep customers from jumping ship? Let’s take a dive into the numbers to see how companies can tackle consumers’ primary concerns.

Adjust supply chain planning

Ninety-one percent of survey respondents say they’ll change their buying behavior moving forward, with more people planning to:

  • Buy in bulk and stock up on items to avoid running out (49 percent)
  • Pre-order whenever possible (39 percent)
  • Shop more in-person than online (31 percent)
  • Buy more subscriptions/services/experience than physical products (21 percent)

In light of these changing behaviors, brands should adjust their supply chain planning to be ready for more bulk buys, more pre-orders, and more retail shopping. They might also want to consider new business models that support subscription services; many brands are already moving in this direction.

Improve inventory management

In addition to bulk buying, 40 percent of survey respondents say they’re rationing essential items to avoid running out of them. Supply chain disruptions have Americans worried about:

  • Their items being out of stock (62%)
  • It being difficult to buy seasonal products (45%)
  • Not getting ingredients they need for special dinners and family traditions (28%)
  • Not having gifts for important family celebrations (24%)
  • Strained personal relationships (21%)

Companies need to automate inventory management as much as possible in order to gain better visibility and control into materials, costs, and orchestration. Inventory management isn’t just about optimizing costs – it’s also about meeting demand. Advanced methods, such as the ability to set minimum/maximum replenishment policies, help ensure that brands always have the right amount of stock to meet customer demand without overspending.

Automate order management

Supply chain worries might be keeping Americans awake at night, but most say they’d feel better if they knew what was going on – in fact, an overwhelming 94 percent of respondents want companies to do more to help ease their worries. They want brands to:

  • Provide regular updates about order shipping status (63 percent)
  • Be more transparent around inventory (59 percent) and about potential supply chain disruptions or delays (54 percent)
  • Offer refunds (56 percent) or discounts (52 percent) if items are delayed or cancelled due to supply chain issues

Stepping up order management would help brands provide these services. A single, connected system to manage orders across all channels (whether online, retail, or other) can help automate the entire process—from capture, to fulfillment, to post-sales care. Brands can also track each order along every step of the process and make that information available to their customers.

Streamline logistics

More than half (51 percent) of the people we surveyed said they’ve experienced late or cancelled deliveries due to delays. And when that happens, they’re not very forgiving:

  • 84 percent say delays would cause them to cancel their order
  • 80 percent say delays or shortages would make them stop buying from a brand altogether; 58 percent would abandon a brand after 1-3 delays or disruptions

The process of getting products from A to Z is never simple, but perfect delivery is possible when you streamline and automate logistics. AI and machine learning can help brands model their networks, manage their fleets, and make transportation more efficient. And knowing how much stock is in every warehouse can help brands ship from Houston, for example, if their stock in Los Angeles runs out.

Customers are getting smarter, so brands should make their supply chains smarter too

With supply chain issues so much in the news over the past two years, consumers are getting savvier about which brands can deliver on their promises – in fact, 40 percent of Americans now pay closer attention to global shortages of items they use on a regular basis. And in a finding that should catch the attention of all brands, 78 percent of Americans say they’d be more willing to buy from a company if they knew it used AI to manage its supply chain. Intelligent track and trace, IoT, and analytics can give brands end-to-end visibility across their supply chains, in real time, so they can respond to problems right away. In addition, AI and machine learning can even predict likely interruptions (for example, when a machine might fail) so brands can prevent problems before they happen.

How can Oracle help?

Oracle Cloud Supply Chain & Manufacturing (SCM) provides all the tools brands need to exceed their customers’ expectations. With a single, connected suite across supply chain planning, inventory, order management, logistics, and more, brands can now improve and automate their supply chains like never before. Infused with AI and machine learning throughout, Oracle Cloud SCM introduces new updates every 90 days, so customers’ supply chains get smarter all the time. This means that brands can deliver perfectly every time and unlock continuous innovation, which results in happy and loyal customers.

Now, it’s bedtime again—so if my dog’s favorite brand could please stop her from whimpering, my life would be so much better!

Learn more about how to improve your supply chain with Oracle Cloud SCM.

Terri Hiskey

Vice President, SCM and Manufacturing Product Marketing, Oracle

Terri Hiskey is the vice president of SCM and manufacturing product marketing for Oracle, leading the strategic development and execution of supply chain and manufacturing-focused content, programs, and assets. She came to Oracle from Epicor, a global provider of ERP solutions for small and midsize manufacturers and distributors, where she led the manufacturing product marketing team. Previous to that, Terri spent nearly a decade leading various SCM product marketing efforts to promote Oracle’s product lifecycle management, manufacturing, maintenance, and order management solutions. Terri has more than twenty years of technology marketing experience focused primarily on helping customers efficiently design, build, and service innovative products for the right markets at the right time. Based in Austin, Texas, she holds a BA from The George Washington University and an MA from Suffolk University.

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