Accelerating Digital Transformation in the Global Supply Chain

Converging forces are fueling a dramatic – and long-term – shift in how organizations prioritize supply chain digital transformation initiatives

Digital transformation has long been a focus in enterprise environments, but back-office functions such as the office of the CFO and supply chain management have historically been slow to adopt new technology. We saw the COVID-19 crisis shift priorities almost overnight. Supplier disruptions – combined with unpredictable and unprecedented changes in demand – have strained supply chains worldwide. Suddenly remote workforces have exposed the shortcomings of manual and paper-based processes. From planning and procurement, to execution and compliance, stakeholders across global supply chains demand deeper transparency to help drive efficiencies, mitigate risk and ensure compliance.

At Summit, we’ve worked with dozens of technology companies that are working to drive digital transformation across numerous sectors and functional areas. We believe these factors have converged as a “perfect storm,” dramatically accelerating long-standing structural shifts towards digital transformation across the supply chain. Below, we share our perspective on key drivers of and areas for growth as this transformation continues to unfold.

of companies used manual processes to identify affected suppliers in China after COVID-19 hit
of supply chain leaders expect to have a digital ecosystem by 2025, up from only 1% today
of chief supply chain officers stated that a lack of visibility was the biggest challenge they face

Evolving to Efficiency and Excellence

While corporations began to recognize the need for automation in their sourcing and procurement functions in recent years, manual and decentralized sourcing processes persist. In fact, according to HBR, a full 70% of companies used manual processes to identify affected suppliers in China after COVID-19 hit. In large, complex corporations and a decentralized procurement organization can lead to consistent overspend by employees, on top of the hours lost to inefficient processes. The advent of distributed workforces at the onset COVID-19 further intensified the need for a centralized and modernized procurement function, as organizations sought to increase efficiencies and reduce costs, especially in a tightening economic environment.

In addition, the disruption in global supply chains highlighted the critical importance of adaptability in supplier networks. Organizations must be able to dynamically manage supplier relationships and onboard new suppliers quickly and remotely without sacrificing transparency and compliance. We believe this level of automation has become critical to control spend, improve collaboration with suppliers and remain competitive.

Investing in Your Digital Twin

As supply chains have grown more global, complex and interdependent, they have also exposed vulnerabilities to ever-increasing disruptions like natural disasters, tariff and trade volatility, and social and labor strife. The onset of COVID-19 presented the most extreme example of supply chain disruption, upending the movement of goods and services globally and impacting large enterprises and individual consumers alike, across all industries and routines. In response, enterprises are working to reprioritize supply chain decisions – to transition from a focus on efficiency and cost to a broader understanding of their supply chain resiliency and adaptability. In a recent survey of manufacturing executives, 70% agree that sourcing from the lowest-cost supplier will no longer be the sole focus for decision making and supply continuity will be prioritized instead. Both public and private organizations are realizing the need for better planning and modeling tools to respond when disruptions, whether large or small, inevitably occur.

An integral piece of the planning puzzle is the growing importance of creating a “digital twin” – or digital representation – of the supply chain, replicating assets, processes, transactions and third-party relationships. An effective digital twin offers better visibility into the movements of goods under different inputs and scenarios. It is designed to help a company quickly understand how a gap or shift in its supply chain will impact the overall operation and, importantly, how to fix that disruption most efficiently.

We believe the $1.5 billion acquisition of Llamasoft in late 2020 underscored the renewed focus on digital twins in network design as well as advanced planning solutions designed to help organizations more effectively respond to dramatic deviations in demand. In the retail supply chain, solutions like Summit-backed RELEX use robust data processing power and AI to fuel adaptive and autonomous planning, forecasting, replenishment and allocation. This allows retailers to optimize their operations in an increasingly dynamic environment – one in which the potential for change and disruption represent the new normal.

Optimizing For Efficient Movement of Goods

For years, the “Amazon effect” has put pressure on logistics providers to address ever increasing demands for parcel shipments, faster shipping times, real-time delivery tracking and lower costs. Delivery constraints continue to intensify as shipment volume and the complexity of global supply chains increase. Meanwhile, travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19 converged to cause both extraordinary supply chain disruption and unprecedented e-commerce demand, with the latter unlikely to decrease even after COVID-19 concerns ease. Today’s supply chains need to be more nimble and transparent – to adjust on the fly and adapt to the complications of parcel drop-shipments and returns.

Visibility is critical to the efficiency of end-to-end supply chains – whether industrial, consumer or otherwise – yet each leg of the journey is managed by different processes and systems. This fragmentation leads to a lack of transparency on the perennial question: “Where is my freight?”. Summit-backed MercuryGate has long been a leader in addressing this challenge, offering a Transportation Management System (TMS) with a differentiated supply chain execution platform designed to help shippers and logistics service providers optimize the movement of goods in the “First Mile.” Today, MercuryGate is helping its customers more effectively respond to the increased pressures facing B2C e-commerce with a “Final Mile” delivery platform that provides end-to-end visibility, from port of origin to the front porch. MercuryGate recently acquired Cheetah Software Systems to further enhance the capability to adapt, automate and communicate movements in real-time.

The demand for dexterity and transparency extends to SMB and mid-market e-commerce businesses as well. As smaller brands work to compete with larger market players, they encounter an increasingly complex logistics landscape. Summit portfolio company ShipMonk works to address this challenge, offering software and solutions to help SMB merchants automate order management, inventory management, warehouse management, ship routing, as well as asset tracking, reverse logistics and discounting shipping rates.

Creating Transparency Across Suppliers and Products

We’ve seen a structural shift in the market over the last several years as corporations, consumers and other stakeholders increasingly demand greater transparency into where their goods and services come from. Compliance, sustainability and fair-trade practice extend beyond the enterprise to the entire supply chain – from direct materials sourcing to distant partner networks. COVID-19 intensified the need for transparency as corporations – and consumers – felt the sudden impact of downstream supplier disruptions in the early days of the pandemic. Beyond preventing empty store shelves, stakeholders increased their focus on the safety and integrity of their sourced goods and trading partners.

The first and most straightforward step in achieving compliance and transparency is tracking a company’s “first derivative” suppliers. Beyond this, however, supply chains remain complex, opaque, and large – with many potential areas of risk and interruption the deeper you go. We believe technology solutions offer the answer to understanding the second, third, and fourth derivative suppliers and putting in place the proper vetting tools to gain transparency into vendor compliance. As supply chains become both more complex, the need for digitization is further fueled by increased regulation and by concerns around environmental and social impact of how goods are sourced and manufactured.

Finally, in order to meet consumer demands around product information transparency, corporations must have the tools in place to ensure consistent and accurate information across their channels. Summit-backed Syndigo offers the largest single-source network for managing and syndicating complete and accurate product information, enabling brands, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and aftermarket suppliers to deliver transparency around their products and ensure compliance with industry and government regulations.

While digital transformation of the supply chain has been gradually underway for many years, the COVID-19 crisis has driven a meaningful acceleration in the prioritization of digitization efforts. Organizations recognize the critical importance of agility and resilience in their supply chains, presenting an opportunity for technology providers working to deliver visibility, automation and risk mitigation across procurement, planning and execution processes.

Growth Timeline

No items found.

Don't delete this element! Use it to style the player! :)

Cae Keys

of companies used manual processes to identify affected suppliers in China after COVID-19 hit
of supply chain leaders expect to have a digital ecosystem by 2025, up from only 1% today
of chief supply chain officers stated that a lack of visibility was the biggest challenge they face
“Supply chains are more complex, more challenged and more essential to business strategy than ever before. With true-end-to-end visibility and optimization from container to customer, the MercuryGate platform is designed to empower customers with a unique combination of advanced functionality and accessibility to help make their transportation management a competitive advantage while increasing revenue opportunities and reducing costs.”
Joe Juliano, CEO MercuryGate

"The COVID-19 crisis has fueled a dramatic acceleration of long-standing structural shifts towards digital transformation across the supply chain. Organizations large and small are reprioritizing supply chain decisions from a focus on efficiency and cost to a broader understanding of resiliency, transparency and adaptability – and we believe they are turning to technology providers that can offer the visibility and automation necessary to operate in an increasingly dynamic and complex environment.”

Peter Rottier, Managing Director, Summit Partners


70% Of companies used manual processes to identify affected suppliers in China after Covid-19 hit: Harvard Business Review

23% of supply chain leaders expect to have a digital ecosystem by 2025, up from only 1% today:  Gartner

84% of chief supply chain officers stated that lack of visibility across the supply chain was the biggest challenge they face: SupplyChainBrain

The content herein reflects the views of Summit Partners and is intended for executives and operators considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of Summit Partners portfolio companies, please click here.

Stories from the Climb

At Summit, it’s the stories that inspire us – the problems being solved and the different paths each team takes to grow a business. Stories from the Climb is a series dedicated to celebrating and sharing the challenges of building a growth company. For more Stories and other Summit perspectives, please visit our Growth Company Resource Center.

Get the Latest from Summit Partners

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on our partners, portfolio, and more.