Supply chains in 40% of multinational corporations were unable to cope with the crisis created by the pandemic.

A report from Orange Business Services, focusing on the manufacturing, transport and logistics sectors, revealed that the global crisis has dramatically changed attitudes to risk.

Some 83% of respondents said they are more aware of supply chain risks, such as raw material shortages, manufacturing shutdowns, or transport blockages, than twelve months ago. The pandemic has woken them up and made them realize they need more speed, agility and innovation to cope with change.

Building resilience and sustainability into supply chains through digitalisation and realtime data insights is a priority for transformation strategies and essential to the survival of many companies.

Nearly eight in 10 say they have accelerated their digital supply chain strategies. In addition, almost 50% of companies surveyed said they are now looking at overhauling risk procurement and risk management strategies within the next two years.

Automation is also set to increase in prominence to handle rapidly changing demand levels. Currently 42% of enterprises surveyed say they are using automation to manage risks, and this will double over the next two years.

Two out of five respondents to the survey said their supply chain could not cope at the height of the crisis. Technological enablers, including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, 5G and big data analytics will now play important roles in strengthening supply chains through enhanced planning and execution.

Collecting and sharing real-time data will improve efficiencies and visibility across the entire supply chain, while supporting relationships between suppliers and manufacturers for smart decision making.

Although the crisis has pushed sustainability down the corporate agenda, the survey still had 59% of respondents saying that not running an ethical and sustainable business was a significant business risk affecting their bottom line. Smart factories can realize a 30% saving in energy costs, for example.

Moving forward, 85% of respondents said their business is investing to become more sustainable. This includes new data collection technologies to give better insight into sustainability metrics and managing and controlling factors such as energy usage.

If actions by organisations follow their ambition, digitally-driven sustainability management programs will become near universal within two years.

The report, Real-time Intelligence and the Future of Supply Chains, surveyed 320 senior executives from multinationals across 18 countries between August and October 2020. The survey was carried out for Orange Business Services by independent research group Longitude, a Financial Times company.