Pandemic Proofing the Supply Chain

Following the pandemic, our new ways of living and working have driven major changes in consumer behaviour in need of choice (SKU growth), convenience, indulgence, immediacy, and contactless environment. For example, Home-delivery is moving from being quick and trackable to now include contactless and Click & Collect has emerged as a major shopping channel and a growth driver for retailers (according to Forrester, 35% of people using click-and-collect buy additional products).

In addition, we are more aware of our environmental impact and are looking for products and services that are both ethically sourced and sustainably delivered.

All of this is happening in an environment of international networks becoming choked due to the confluence of shipping rationalisation, reduction in port capacity due to COVID, limited air freight capacity and surging demand.

Vital to this evolving market is the need for all players (from manufacturers to distributors to retailers) to be cost efficient, agile and rapidly scalable:

BLOCKCHAIN: As retailers and manufacturers make bolder claims regarding ethical and sustainable sourcing, blockchain is growing in popularity as a means of both validating the supply sources as well driving transaction efficiency across the supply chain.

CONTACTLESS: The need for contactless is seeing retail self-checkout evolve to “Scan-and-Go” with shoppers using their Smartphones as a mobile POS.

CONTROL TOWERS: An exciting tool to connect all the disparate parties in a supply chain into a single ecosystem to provide real-time visibility.

DIGITISATION: Once the domain or early adopters, digitisation through the Internet of Things (IOT) is now a cost-effective means to drive efficiency and agility.

CLOUD COMPUTING: A powerful platform to provide rapid scalability.


Using Digital Twin Technology 

We are working with several companies using Digital Twin Technology to build a virtual replica of their entire networks – from the entire network down to a particular warehouse or production line.  This allows them to quickly and cost-effectively model their current world and run multiple scenarios to optimise the layout and flow of everything from existing operations to completely new supply chains.

A Digital Twin quickly identifies and prioritises bottlenecks in the operational efficiency, which we can offer solutions ranging from project managing capital investment, assisting with system selection through to application of LEAN techniques to provide some early wins.

We are currently building real time visibility and quick scalability through digitising our clients’ operations via IOT of operational performance in a cloud environment. This is then supported through the design and construction of powerful decision tools that allow our clients to quickly evaluate multiple and complex options.

Our recently announced partnership with Colliers also enables us jointly to provide a full property solution to complement our network redesign solution.



A hallmark of Pollen is that we provide fast and powerful solutions.  We were able to model a client’s product portfolio of 50,000 SKU’s and provide a dashboard of true cost and visibility in just 3 weeks.  Another example was building a simulation model for the entire future state operation of a leading snack food manufacturer that provides a 6-year, minute by minute schedule in less than 5 minutes, including seasonality, daily deviation, and shift labour plans.


Future Predictions of Supply & Distribution

The sharp uptake of online shopping during the last 18 months has cemented this as the go-to shopping channel.  Consumers will no longer be constrained by ‘off the shelf’ and will hop from platform-to platform to search.  With this in mind, I think we will see a greater premiumisation of categories and products as shoppers become more selective and demanding of quality.  We will see the concept of Mass Personalisation extended into products leading to a huge increase in products on offer and a shortening of product life.

Ethical sourcing and sustainability will no longer be an option, but the proverbial ‘ticket to play’.

To meet this exponentially growing complexity, organisations must become far more agile, and we will see a far greater uptake of sophisticated tools such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Augmented Reality, Real Time Geolocation.

The trend of “More choice, quicker and cheaper” online will accelerate and will need to be addressed in a sustainable manner.  Consumers and shoppers will become more focused on elimination of waste and as such, packaging will need to evolve from single use to reusable.

Agility, scalability, and resilience across the entire supply chain – from innovation through to consumer delivery – will be the point of differentiation and those organisations that master this will be the ultimate winners.


Sean Mitchell; Partner: Pollen Consulting Group