Supply Chain

8 Common Supply Chain Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Author Image Sumeet Soni Apr 10, 2023
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Are you struggling with managing your supply chain? Do you find it challenging to ensure the timely delivery of products to customers while keeping costs low? 

Well, you’re not alone. 

A survey by McKinsey & Company found that 85% of supply chain leaders experienced supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, and 97% expected to face future disruptions.

In today’s globalised and fast-paced business world, supply chain management has become increasingly complex, and companies face numerous challenges that can impact their operations and bottom line. 

In this article, we will discuss eight common supply chain challenges and provide effective strategies to overcome them. So, if you want to optimise your supply chain management processes and improve your business’s efficiency, read on!

Some of the significant challenges that companies face in supply chain management and their solutions are as follows:

Material Scarcity 

The material shortage is a significant challenge for supply chain managers as it can lead to shortages and delays in the delivery of goods. It occurs when a limited supply of raw materials or finished products is available in the market. A range of factors, such as natural disasters, geopolitical events, and economic downturns, can cause this.

When material scarcity occurs, it can impact the entire supply chain, from the point of origin to the point of consumption. 

For example, if a manufacturer relies on a single supplier for a critical raw material and that supplier experiences material scarcity, it can lead to delays in production, which can, in turn, impact the delivery of finished goods to customers.

Moreover, material scarcity can lead to increased costs for companies as they may need to source alternative, more expensive materials. This can also lead to revenue loss if companies cannot meet customer demand due to material scarcity.

How to Overcome

To overcome this challenge, you need to develop contingency plans and diversify their supply chains to ensure they have access to alternative sources of materials. Additionally, you must collaborate closely with suppliers to monitor supply chain risks and respond quickly to any unexpected disruptions.

Lack of Supply Chain Visibility 

Supply chain visibility refers to tracking and monitoring products and materials as they move through the supply chain, from the point of origin to the point of consumption. It is essential for supply chain managers to have visibility into their supply chain to ensure efficient operations and timely delivery of goods.

A lack of supply chain visibility can lead to a range of issues, such as delays, product losses, and increased costs. 

For example, a company needs visibility into the location and status of a shipment to be able to accurately estimate delivery times, which can lead to delays and lost revenue.

Moreover, a lack of visibility can make it challenging to identify and address issues such as bottlenecks, quality issues, and supply chain disruptions. Furthermore, it can be caused by a range of factors, such as limited data sharing between supply chain partners, outdated technology, and a need for more standardisation in data formats.

How to Overcome

Businesses need to invest in technologies such as blockchain and IoT that can help to increase supply chain visibility and transparency. Additionally, they need to work closely with suppliers to ensure that data is accurate and timely and to develop contingency plans that can help to mitigate any supply chain disruptions that may arise.

Freight Prices Increment

Increasing freight prices can pose significant challenges for supply chain management, impacting the cost and efficiency of transportation. In addition, when freight prices rise, it can lead to higher transportation costs, directly impacting profitability and pricing strategies. 

In turn, this can lead to longer lead times for transportation, impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, increasing freight prices can result in supply chain disruptions, as companies may need to find alternative transportation methods or routes to avoid higher costs.

How to Overcome

You should adjust their pricing strategies to account for the increased transportation costs, which can affect consumer demand and reduce sales. Additionally, you may have to consider alternative transportation modes or even sourcing from different suppliers to manage the cost of transportation. These adjustments can impact supply chain relationships, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, the profitability of your business.

Demand Forecasting Complexity

Demand forecasting complexity is a significant challenge that affects supply chain management. Accurate demand forecasting is critical to ensure businesses meet customer needs while minimising inventory and transportation costs. However, forecasting demand can be complex due to various factors, including market trends, seasonal fluctuations, and changes in customer behaviour. 

Inaccurate forecasting can lead to stock shortages, excess inventory, and lost sales, ultimately impacting the bottom line. Additionally, forecasting demand becomes more challenging as supply chains become more global and interconnected.

How to Overcome

You need to invest in advanced data analytics tools and machine learning algorithms that can help improve demand forecasting accuracy. Additionally, you need to work closely with suppliers and partners to gather timely and accurate data to inform their forecasting models. By doing so, your business can better anticipate demand and ensure that you have the right products in the right quantities at the right time.

Unexpected delays

Unexpected delays are a major challenge for supply chain management as they can cause disruptions and impact the delivery of goods and services. Delays can occur due to various reasons, such as weather conditions, traffic congestion, equipment breakdowns, and labour strikes. 

These delays can lead to higher transportation and storage costs, reduced customer satisfaction, increased inventory costs, and impact the overall profitability of businesses. 

How to Overcome

To mitigate the effects of unexpected delays, you must develop contingency plans incorporating risk management strategies and increasing supply chain visibility. This will help your company respond quickly to any delays, minimise disruption, and meet customers’ needs.

Supply Chain Fragmentation

Supply chain fragmentation is challenging for businesses as it can create operational inefficiencies, increased risk, and reduced visibility. Fragmentation can occur for several reasons, including multiple suppliers, varying standards and processes, and siloed organisational departments. The challenges associated with supply chain fragmentation include:

Increased complexity: This can lead to delays, miscommunications, and errors, impacting the overall efficiency of the supply chain.

Reduced visibility: This can lead to stock-outs, delays, and lost sales.

Increased risk:  This can impact customer satisfaction, improve transportation and storage costs, and affect the overall profitability of businesses.

Reduced responsiveness: This can lead to increased inventory costs, reduced customer satisfaction, and lost sales opportunities.

How to Overcome

To overcome these challenges, supply chain partners must work together to improve communication and collaboration, standardise processes and systems, and increase visibility and transparency throughout the supply chain. This can be achieved through technology, such as supply chain management software, that allows for real-time data sharing and collaboration between different partners.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is vital for supply chain management, requiring businesses to adopt new technologies, tools, and processes to remain competitive. However, while digital transformation offers several benefits, including improved efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced visibility, it also presents several challenges. 

These challenges include adoption and integration, data management, cybersecurity risks, and the need for skilled personnel. Additionally, digital transformation has created a more complex and interconnected supply chain ecosystem that requires businesses to collaborate more closely with suppliers, partners, and customers. 

How to Overcome

Companies can take several steps to overcome digital transformation challenges in supply chain management. They can:

  • Invest in new technology and systems that provide greater visibility and control over their supply chains, such as blockchain or AI-powered platforms.
  • Collaborate with their partners in the supply chain to establish common data standards and protocols.
  • Develop the skills of their workforce to use and manage new technologies effectively.
  • Adopt an agile approach to their supply chain operations, enabling them to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer demands.

Congestion at Critical Ports

Congestion at critical ports is a challenge that can significantly affect supply chain management. When ports become congested, delays in the movement of goods occur, resulting in increased transportation costs, lost sales, and reduced business profitability. 

Various factors, including labour disputes, severe weather conditions, equipment breakdowns, and increased demand, can cause the congestion problem. It can also result from poor infrastructure or insufficient capacity to handle the volume of goods passing through the port. The effects of congestion can ripple throughout the supply chain, impacting lead times, production schedules, and inventory levels. 

How to Overcome

Several strategies can help overcome the challenges caused by congestion at critical ports in supply chain management. One approach is to improve the visibility of shipments by utilising real-time tracking technology and data analytics to anticipate and avoid potential delays. Another strategy is diversifying shipping routes and using alternative ports to reduce reliance on congested ones. Finally, collaborating with port authorities and other stakeholders to improve infrastructure, invest in new technology and automation, and develop more efficient processes can also alleviate congestion and increase the overall efficiency of the supply chain.


In today’s fast-paced business environment, a supply chain that is both agile and resilient has become a crucial requirement. However, achieving this requires more than haphazardly incorporating these characteristics into a supply chain.

8 Common Supply Chain Challenges and How to Overcome Them
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Written By
Sumeet Soni

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