More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of global retail, CPG, and manufacturing businesses say their technology-specific supply chain challenges worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many unable to meet the rapid changes in consumer demand, according to research from creative data technology provider, InterSystems.

The survey, conducted by Vitreous World, polled more than 700 senior business leaders within retail, CPG, and manufacturing companies worldwide, finding that the biggest supply chain issue they currently face is a lack of flexibility in existing processes (44 per cent). This is followed by difficulty performing analytics to support the business (40 per cent) and a lack of accurate end-to-end visibility and reporting (40 per cent), further highlighting the inabilities in relaying information back to make critical, and quick, business decisions for almost half of these organisations.

These challenges are preventing organisations from understanding what is happening in the moment – as only 11 per cent of organisations have access to data that’s less an hour old. The overwhelming majority of business managers are therefore working with data that is out of data by the time it reaches them – 15 per cent of whom have to wait up to three days.

Joe Lichtenberg, product and industry marketing, InterSystems, commented: “The supply chain IT issues being faced by retail, CPG, and manufacturing organisations certainly aren’t new; however, COVID-19 has propelled them to the surface. They’ve highlighted the profound impact issues such as having largely manual processes within the supply chain and a lack of flexibility can have on their ability to respond to rapidly changing requirements. In particular, the lack of visibility and access to data is likely to be impeding their ability to use this information to achieve business goals and improve operations to meet demand.”

The number of disparate systems in use within the supply chain are likely contributing to these challenges as more than a third (36 per cent) of organisations currently use 6 – 7 software products throughout their entire end-to-end supply chain through distribution processes. Meanwhile over a quarter (26 per cent) use 3 – 5 different software products, followed by 17 per cent who use 8-10, and 9 per cent use more than 10.

Lichtenberg added: “The large number of disparate systems in use throughout the supply chain is leaving retail, CPG and manufacturing businesses with a fragmented ecosystem, creating data silos, and impeding access to real-time data. This in turn is preventing them from obtaining the flexibility, scalability, and speed they require to make critical business decisions based on up-to-the-minute data – as evidenced during the peak of the pandemic when many were unable to rapidly scale to increased demand for certain products, such as sanitiser and toilet paper. What they need now is end-to-end digital connections which will enable them to sense rapidly changing customer needs and demands and reconfigure quickly in response. As such, it’s vital that these organisations look at how they can create a more agile and cohesive infrastructure that allows them to integrate data from across the supply chain in real-time to meet these changes in demand faster and more easily.”