The coronavirus pandemic has shaken up every aspect of modern life, revealing cracks in many of the old models of doing business. There isn’t a single market sector in a single country that hasn’t been affected. Among the many lessons still being learned, often the hard way, by politicians, businesses, and individuals, the lessons for businesses that rely on global supply chain logistics have become clear.
In a world increasingly affected by unpredictable and disruptive global events, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the importance of maintaining a supply chain that can withstand an upset.
This is not the first time an unpredictable global or regional event has affected the supply chain, and it certainly won’t be the last. But there are ways of preparing your company to withstand an upset, and ensure continued business, by getting your supply chain logistics in order.
Every disaster is going to disrupt business in unpredictable ways. This makes it all the more vital to be prepared, by having a strong foundation that can better withstand upsets that are inevitable, and that many predict will only increase. Companies that are going to survive the long term are those that are prepared for the unpredictable.
The current crisis is only the latest to reveal the importance of the strength of the supply chain and the necessity of preparation. Indeed, with every crisis comes an opportunity for a business to examine the weaknesses within its operations and to create innovative solutions to address these weaknesses.
We’ve all seen how the coronavirus pandemic, and ensuing business shutdowns, have blocked access to goods and items desperately needed to combat this disease, such as gloves, masks, shields, and other medical equipment, as well as toilet paper, sanitizer, and other high-demand consumer goods. It’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen global events and crises affect supply chain logistics, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last.
Steps To Prepare For Global Supply Chain Disruptions
First, it’s important to have a central crisis management center and to make sure the company is speaking with a single voice. During a viral pandemic, this central management center will be virtual, but it’s important for all energy to focus on the crisis. As information emerges, it should all come to and from a single place, so all communication both internally and externally is consistent. Make sure it’s clear to everyone involved what operations will continue as usual and which, if any, will be paused. If properly prepared, hopefully, none have to be paused, but it’s difficult to predict what each specific crisis will disrupt.
Secondly, many companies have had success with supply-chain mapping. This can be a tedious process, especially for companies with complicated supply-chains, but can be the difference between surviving an upset or not. Supply-chain mapping is the process of mapping in detail all of their suppliers’ global sites and subcontractors, and which parts originate or pass through those sites. Companies that put in this upfront time investment benefit from knowing, at the first sign of an upset, exactly how their supply chain could be impacted as events unfold. This allows the company to initiate avoidance and mitigation measures right away, such as shifting inventory allocations, shifting to alternate facilities, buying up inventory, and even measures to affect customer behavior through discounts on alternate products, etc.
Companies not ready to invest in supply-chain mapping should at least have 24/7 monitoring in place. New technologies have emerged to make this easier and less cost-prohibitive, and it’s an essential step to puzzling together the ways in which a disruption can affect the supply chain as it progresses.
Another way to prepare your supply-chain for potential disruptions is through multi-sourcing. This is the process, and what some might even call an art, of sourcing the same materials and parts from various suppliers. In the event of a disruption to any one supplier, orders can be shifted to other suppliers to account for the shortage. This underscores the importance of supply-chain mapping and monitoring, in order to act immediately and avoid disruptions to your own supply as much as possible.
Global crises can come in many forms, and it’s impossible to predict when and what the next one will be, or even how it’ll affect supply chain logistics. What is possible is to position your company for resilience in any disruption, and to be able to continue to serve your customers and keep employees on the payroll, even when other companies can’t. What might seem like a high up-front investment can easily be dwarfed by a major upset to the supply chain that will put many companies out of business. In these uncertain times, the best thing we can do is be prepared