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Global supply chain in the spotlight

CR: Dominique Gaul

New technology will undoubtedly redefine the entire supply chain management and how stakeholders interact. The seemingly endless disruptions since the onset of the pandemic has actually highlighted the value of innovation.

To explore supply chain digitisation and embrace its challenges, DataThings Co-Founder & Head of Operations Grégory Nain welcomed to the ICT Spring Digital Supply Chain Summit seasoned professionals from Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Spire Maritime and Expo 2020 Dubai - among many others. 


In his opening speech, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy Director Supply Chain & Industry 4.0 Daniel Liebermann reminded how the ongoing disruptions due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have placed unprecedented challenges on manufacturers and their supply chain networks. “Building resilient, sustainable and future-proof supply chains is the way forward. [...] Events such as the Digital Supply Chain Summit are a great opportunity to share experiences, discover new digital solutions and network with potential partners.

How to mitigate the global supply chain crisis?

Due to recent lockdown restrictions in China, the war in Ukraine and weather events - such as the dust storm and high winds that caused a massive container ship to run aground last year in the Suez Canal - the global supply chain is in upheaval, causing shortages, affecting consumer patterns and leading to world economic slowdown. But what if leveraging the power of satellite data could mitigate the global supply chain crisis?


This is what suggested Spire Maritime COO John Lusk - large satellite constellations actually offer a unique view on aviation, maritime and weather data and therefore help to anticipate delays, optimize operations and save costs. 

How to prepare for uncertainty?


Asia School of Business Author and Associate Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management Shardul Phadnis started the ball rolling wondering how to prepare for uncertainty. 


The scope of global supply chains is massive - in 2019, imports/exports represented 44% of world GDP. But is there enough self-sufficiency to produce everything we need locally? Although we do not have the answer yet, Shardul insisted on public authorities’ initiatives, especially in Europe, to create regional trade blocs, foster sustainability (by organising the COP26 Summit for instance) and embrace technology. 


According to Shardul, although supply chain managers can not project what we know today into the future reliably, there is still a way to deal with long-term challenges: create different visions of the future, based on reliable information, monitor the business environment as they go along and use these visions to prepare for what might happen.    


Focusing on supply chain finance


FinTech Association of Japan representative Takeshi Kito introduced the many benefits of supply chain finance - also known as reverse factoring - for core enterprises, SMEs and financers. 


As supply chains stretch across the globe with multinational buyers on one side and suppliers in numerous countries on the other, corporations are under pressure to unlock the working capital trapped in their supply chains. Reverse factoring thus enables core enterprises to optimize their working capital and balance sheet.


When it comes to SMEs, supply chain finance allows them to access immediate financing at a much favorable rate. But financers are not left behind - this new set of solutions not only gives them access to new markets and clients, but also significantly improves risk management since they now have full visibility and transparency of the supply chain.    


Towards data-driven decision-making processes


According to NISCI CAVE Lab Director Pascal Wolff, supply chain networks generate vast amounts of data that can be challenging to analyze - especially if using academic research, which often focuses on model development and algorithm design. Supply chain analytics and interactive visualization are therefore key to turn all this data into real insights and thus facilitate decision-making. 


We may find the right balance between a methodological approach (for research) and a partner-focused approach (for visualization) to help decision-makers to come to a solution” - through an interactive network design application.


NIS Directive - new milestone for cybersecurity in transport sector 


To increase the EU Member States’ cybersecurity capabilities, the European Parliament adopted the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive in 2016. But the growing threats posed with digitalisation and the surge in cyber-attacks constraint the Commission to submit a new proposal to “strengthen the security requirements” with a specific focus on supply chain. 



LIST Research & Technology Associate Jocelyn Aubert specified that the proposed NIS 2 Directive should introduce “express requirements to manage third party risks in supply chains and supplier relationships, thus addressing one of the most important challenges facing cybersecurity today”. 


Research institutes like LIST are already working on graph-based frameworks so competent authorities could properly analyze complex ecosystems, by generating KPIS related to security and risks, as well as impact management.


America and Europe - towards a more sustainable and resilient supply chain?


According to Avery Dennison LPM-Europe Operations Director Séverine Marquet, there are three essential points to successfully transform supply chain: have a sustainable workplace (to encourage people’s engagement and upskilling), end-to-end digitisation (to foster interconnectivity) and network transformation (to have a better overview by synchronizing supply chain, ordering, ERP and systems). 


Focusing on Luxembourg now, national innovation agency Luxinnovation has a great card to play in building a green, digital and resilient supply chain ecosystem. But how? As reminded by Luxinnovation Head of European RDI Support Stefano Pozzi Mucelli, Luxinnovation Digital Transformation department supports companies in their digital transformation and the management of their data assets with a view to sustainable development. 


To do so, Luxinnovation offers three tailor-made programmes. Young startups, larger companies and entrepreneurs can first join one the Fit 4 programmes (Fit 4 Digital, Fit 4 Innovation and Fit 4 Sustainability) to identify their needs.. Then, they can switch to the Luxembourg Cluster Initiative to find partners and move on to collaborative projects. 


Luxinnovation therefore ambitions to turn companies’ innovative (even disruptive) ideas into opportunities for a more diversified, resilient, green and digital economy. 


Creative and strategic insights - followed by young and yet promising startups’ pitches (DataThings, Marine Innovation, Harven and GINT) - that will undoubtedly contribute to the evolution of supply chain management.