Digital supply chain excellence in turbulent times

PwC Connected & Autonomous Supply Chains 2025 report

  • Companies pioneering supply chain excellence - ‘Digital Champions’ - serve as a prime example of how to future-proof supply chains to face major disruptions such as the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Digital Champions create digital twins of their supply chains (47%) to maximize supply chain transparency, compared to just 12% of all companies having done so.
  • 70% of Digital Champions use financial data to make supply chain decisions, whereas only 31% of all companies leverage this information to drive decision making.

7 July 2020 - When Covid-19 hit the world, supply chains in all kinds of sectors came under pressure, partly due to a sharply declining or, on the contrary, exploding demand for specific products. Volatility and uncertainty are pushing companies to lift and shift supply chains quickly. The key to success lies in the transformation to a more connected and self-orchestrating supply chain ecosystem, allowing companies to quickly anticipate opportunities and address challenges and risks before they arise, according to PwC’s Connected & Autonomous Supply Chains 2025 report.

What it takes for supply chains to face disruptions such as Covid-19

Having greater levels of visibility over product content, supply chain financials and logistics flows in near-real-time has never been more critical than today. Companies that today already excel in having cutting-edge supply chain ecosystems - ‘Digital Champions’ - are generating a ‘digital twin’ or a virtual replica of their supply chain to run simulations, for example by comparing what is actually happening in the supply chain against the plan, whereas just 12% of all companies have done so.

Adjusting demand and supply based on actual orders, consumed materials or changes in production, are all key when faced with disruptions such as Covid-19. Still, the gap between companies could not be more prominent: nearly a third of Digital Champions (29%) are already enhancing their end-to-end planning with dynamic approaches that include scenario analyses, compared to just 12% of all companies.

Connecting suppliers, manufacturers, logistics service providers and customers interactively via ‘smart logistics’ will gain importance in the years to come. However, just 18% of all companies are putting smart logistics at the top of their agenda and only about a third of them have moved to implementing this technology, compared to 59% of Digital Champions saying it’s a high or even a top priority, and 82% having implemented it.

“Customer behaviours are changing dramatically whereas digital technologies are affecting every aspect of how companies run their businesses. Covid-19 in particular is causing unforeseen drops in demand or - contrarily - unexpected demand increases and significant supply shortages. This type of disruption is requiring companies to quickly ramp up or ramp down their supply chain. To respond to these crisis situations in the future, supply chains need to become more transparent, based on solid planning and leveraging technology to its full potential”, said Peter Vemeire, Partner at PwC Belgium. 

AI-driven supply chain management

AI is accelerating supply chain improvements and will become the new norm. Digital Champions are well ahead of the rest of the sample in this area; they’re making more extensive use of data and are more likely to be applying AI to turbocharge key supply chain decisions.

But leveraging AI isn’t always easy. Companies need to master the challenges posed by ensuring relevant data is being generated throughout the supply chain. Overall, only about one in five companies (22%) have already implemented an AI and advanced analytics platform. Interest is growing, though, and 38% have begun pilots in this area, while another 22% plan to do so within the next five years.

“AI can help to dynamically predict the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of shipments by considering all information about and around a shipment, such as real-time GPS signals of the shipment, weather, traffic and port congestion information. AI brings enormous potential to enhance supply chain performance. But with great potential comes great risk. Are algorithms making decisions that align with an organisation’s values? Do customers trust businesses with their data? It’s critical to anticipate problems and future-proof your systems so that you can fully realise AI’s potential.”


About the survey

This PwC report is based on quantitative research consisting of interviews conducted between October 2019 and January 2020 with 1,601 senior executives from companies in 33 territories across EMEA, the Americas and APAC. Global survey results were weighted by territory GDP to provide a balanced view

PwC developed an index that ranks companies by supply chain maturity. Based on their scores, grouping companies into one of four categories: Digital Champions, Digital Innovators, Digital Followers and Digital Novices. 

To measure where particular companies fit in these groupings, PwC allocated a total of 100 points to different levels of digital capabilities and advances:

  • 25 points for the implementation of advanced supply chain capabilities,
  • 10 points for the use of AI to accelerate these supply chain capabilities,
  • 25 points for the implementation of software-based supply chain technologies,
  • 15 points for overall performance impacts
  • 25 points for demonstrated revenue (10) and cost (15) impacts.

The index is cumulative, so the more integrated a business and the more broadly it implements advanced supply chain capabilities, the higher the index value.

PwC also supplemented this research with in-depth interviews with executives from companies that are leading the way in particular aspects of the supply chain



Erik Oosthuizen

0474 56 42 76

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