There isn’t an industry operating today that does not depend on connectivity. Whether it’s a simple e-commerce website for a small business, a massive A.I. tool for a multinational conglomerate, a patient record system for a hospital, or monthly newsletter distribution for a church, there is an ever- growing demand for computing power and capacity across the globe.
The truth is that demand has long outpaced supply, and the data center market is still trying to catch up. Those in charge of these projects are desperately seeking to collect a stable of national and regional contractors, suppliers, and partners that can help navigate the many challenges that affect speed to market, service delivery, and ultimately, profitability.
One area of data center project management that is often overlooked or underestimated is the industrial supply chain. Consisting of multiple links, the industrial supply chain runs the gamut from the manufacturing and procurement of critical-path gear and components to overland transportation, secure, climate-controlled storage, precise delivery, and exacting on-site rigging and setting. Each link in the chain represents a mission-critical value and is accompanied by a unique set of challenges.
Most contractors' natural instinct is to work with vendors who specialize in dealing with a single link in this chain – assuming that if a company just provides overland transportation, then they must be very adept – as it’s the sole purpose of their business. Now add several more suppliers that wield expertise on a singular subject and a stable of expert vendors has been assembled—at the cost of added complexity.
While each vendor will undoubtedly perform their function to an acceptable level, the added complexity has unwittingly introduced increased risk to the project timeline, giving rise to several challenges within the industrial supply chain,
One of the most persistent and complex issues is a lack of end-to-end supply chain visibility. Industrial supply chains are often composed of intricate networks of multiple participants, utilizing incongruent systems and technologies that need to be, somehow, connected. Real-time visibility and transparency may be hampered by this complexity. Low visibility makes it harder to identify and address supply chain disruptions or quality issues, which can cause expensive delays.
Decision-Making Ambiguity also remains an ongoing challenge. Supply chain managers heavily depend on data-driven insights for informed decision-making. The absence of standardized metrics and up-to-date information compromises the accuracy and reliability of the data, introducing uncertainty in crucial areas such as forecasting, demand planning, and risk management. Furthermore, inaccurate forecasts brought on by a lack of visibility can affect resource allocation and production schedules.
Order processing, data tracking, and inventory management may be managed by various supply chain entities using different systems and technologies. Integrating and sharing information effectively is hampered by a lack of standardization.
Another challenge that is often faced in this industry is the lack of coordination throughout the process. Industrial supply chain coordination requires information sharing and taking into account how decisions made at one stage affect those made at subsequent stages. Competing objectives between stages or delays in the information flow are usually the cause of coordination breakdowns. Conflicting objectives often stem from different owners overseeing various stages of the supply chain, each striving to maximize their individual profits.
As the data center industry matures, numerous companies have discovered partial, if not complete, solutions to enhance the industrial supply chain process. However, it's always beneficial to periodically reassess and reevaluate, exploring opportunities to enhance the efficiency of this process even further.
Consolidation is the key to overcoming these challenges. Finding a strategic partner that can own the entire industrial supply chain for the construction of the project. A partner who can provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to management is essential.