Keeping products flowing to customers

Digital technologies provide an answer to supply chain issues. By Alistair Drummond, Unipart Group.

The combination of Covid-19 and Brexit demonstrated the fragility of Britain’s supply chain infrastructure. From PPE to loo roll to silicon chips, problems with global supply chains have driven local shortages that have damaged a number of sectors.

Surveys show that many organisations are now seeking to implement intelligent supply chains by introducing levels of technology that are specifically developed to create greater agility and resilience. For instance:

  • A survey by the Business Continuity Institute revealed that over 80% of professionals reported that management commitment to supply chain risk is now “medium” or “high” and some are already seeing funds diverted to Business Continuity for investment in additional staff and/or technology.
  • IBM reports that 70% of supply chain leaders surveyed say they will use intelligent automation or AI to support demand management forecasting in the next three years
  • Gartner surveyed 1,300 supply chain professionals and found that nearly 90% plan investments in supply chain resiliency over the next two years with a major focus on agility.
  • But according to the Business Continuity Institute less than 60% of organisations are now using technology to help analyse and report on supply chain disruptions

Leading companies have recognised that when organisations have advance knowledge of where disruption will come from and which products will be impacted, they have the lead time to 

  • execute avoidance and mitigation strategies immediately, 
  • shape demand by offering discounts on substitutes, 
  • buy up inventory, 
  • or control inventory allocations.

The thrust is to be able to understand patterns and changes in stock keeping units (SKUs) to manage risks and prevent shortages. To achieve this, companies are increasingly focused on data and intelligent workflows that combine levels of artificial intelligence and machine learning. This can enable companies to forecast, simulate and optimise aspects such as container shipping, inventory and the deployment of their people.

We recognised this need several years ago in Unipart, and last year launched the Unipart Digital brand of products based on the tools that we have developed and used in our own company while working with some of the most demanding clients on the planet.

For instance, our Dragonfly product, which is being launched in 2022, provides us with the ability to forecast, optimise and simulate supply chains to provide greater agility and resilience. 

It can be integrated with our Unipart Digital Enterprise System to provide highly configurable warehouse management that will enable changes to be made very quickly to respond to customer demands.

Our UD Business Intelligence Solution enables companies to visualise data in a large range of data sources and file types such as ERP, databases and spreadsheets, and to communicate that in a meaningful way resulting in actionable insights.  

Finally, our Paradigm Insight product is a web portal that uses sensors to generate data on a wide range of devices or components to gain important insights into operational performance. It provides a diagnostic hub that can provide complete traceability throughout the supply chain. This enables companies to monitor the performance of an essential part – like a train door – to address changes in its condition before it becomes a major maintenance issue.

The important aspect of these products is that they have been developed with supply chain specialists for use in our own company, so they are extremely relevant and highly tailorable.

Early next year, we’re opening a new centre in our headquarters in Oxford to provide our customers with a hands-on experience of using these technologies. The Advanced Supply Chain Institute is probably the first of its kind in combining a showroom for the leading technologies from Unipart and other companies that have been field tested and are ready to go to deliver the kinds of resilience and agility companies are seeking.

For more information on Unipart Digital products or on how you can visit the Advanced Supply Chain Institute, please contact Paige Harris by email at

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