Over the past 12 months, 80% of companies have experienced significant supply chain disruption. From wars, political unrest, environmental disasters, and the still looming pandemic, it’s impossible to deny the importance of strengthening your supply chain.
A resilient supply chain can withstand unexpected events and still maintain operations. This means having a plan in place for when things go wrong, whether that’s an increase in demand or a shortage of supplies. It also means being able to adapt quickly to changes in the market or global environment.
Luckily, with all the recent uncertainty in supply chains, we have countless case studies on how to bulk up your defences and protect your business. Planning ahead can be costly, but the benefits will far outway the cost if and when disaster strikes.
Here are a few things you can do to get ahead of the uncertainty.
Investing in Digital Tools
The best way to stay on top of supply chain management at all stages of a crisis is to invest in the tools that make it possible. It can be expensive, but smart manufacturers will utilize digital data, ai, and analytics to improve transparency, run scenarios, assess trade-offs, and more. This will give you a clear understanding of your supply chain, what the risks are, and where you can make changes to mitigate them.
With the right tools, you can simulate supply chain issues and discover the weak points in your plans. You can also use these tools to assess different options and trade-offs, so you can make the best decisions for your company when disruptions occur.
Constructing a digital twin of your warehouses and factories can help you understand how they operate and identify potential problems. A full digital twin is an invaluable asset as it allows you to track what’s going on at any moment, and to run “what-if” scenarios to test the resilience of your systems.
Digital tools can also improve your communication with suppliers and customers. By sharing data and collaborating on digital platforms, you can keep everyone up to date on changes in the supply chain, which can help avoid disruptions.
Having an A-Team
During a crisis, you likely have all hands on deck when it comes to troubleshooting your supply chain. However, playing catch-up is not going to lead to long-term stability. Whether you’re planning ahead or currently in a bind, having a team dedicated to long-term supply chain stabilization is vital.
This team should work on tasks such as:
- Mapping out the entire supply chain from start to finish
- Determining what processes can be streamlined or automated
- Identifying areas of risk and developing mitigation strategies
- Benchmarking performance against similar companies and industries
- Planning for disruptions and building resilience into the system
Although it may seem like an unnecessary expense, having a supply chain A-team will save you time and money in the long run.
A guaranteed way to disrupt your supply chain is to have all your materials coming from the same supplier or region. If there is a natural disaster or unrest in that area, you won’t have a backup plan.
To avoid this, you can create redundancies in your supply chain by sourcing materials from multiple suppliers in different regions. That way, if one supplier is unable to meet your needs, you can rely on others.
This approach has its own challenges, as it can be difficult to find suppliers who are willing to work with you on a backup basis. However, keeping in contact with them will get you out of many binds should issues start to arise.
Conscious Product Design
If the products you’re manufacturing require lots of custom parts from different suppliers, you may find yourself without your most important export if one or more problems arise with your supply chain.
Planning ahead and manufacturing in a way that allows most products to be made without the need for specialty parts can help you avoid this. Consider using standard parts, or designing your products so they can be made with more common materials.
This will make it easier to find replacement suppliers if needed, and reduce the risk of production stoppages due to supply chain disruptions.
One of the largest threats to supply chains is natural disasters. If your warehouse is damaged in a storm, it won’t matter if your suppliers are able to ship. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for reinforcing your infrastructure.
This can include things like adding backup power generators and building warehouses on higher ground. It’s also important to have a plan for quickly repairing the damage. This might involve having extra inventory on hand, so you can continue operating while repairs are made. Alternatively, you might contract with a company that specializes in speedy repairs.
Investing in backup inventory
It may feel like an unnecessary expense, especially when you consider the cost of storage, but having a supply of emergency materials can buy you time in any crisis.
It’s important to have a plan for how you will use this inventory. When should it be deployed? How much should you order? What are the risks of holding too much or too little?
The answers to these questions will be different for every company, but it’s important to have a plan in place so you can make the best use of your backup inventory when disruptions occur.
Supporting your Supplier Network
Even if you have a plan for every contingency, if your suppliers go under in a crisis, you’ll be in danger. This is why supporting your suppliers and staying in communication with them are so important.
During the Covid-19 crisis, many large manufacturers helped keep suppliers afloat by accelerating their payments or helping to facilitate bank loans. You don’t need to go to these lengths, but you shouldn’t sit by and let your connections falter.
Train your employees to interact with your suppliers in a way that builds trust. Make sure that you check in with them frequently to ensure that things are running smoothly.
You can also help your suppliers by sharing information with them and collaborating on ways to improve the supply chain. By working together, you can make the whole system more resilient.
Knowledge is Power
If there’s one word to sum up our times, it’s uncertain. There’s no way to predict when a crisis will arise or where it will come from, but we know that it will come. Planning ahead and learning the skills needed to deal with it could be the difference between thriving and failing completely.
Take the time to learn and build connections with people who are in the same boat as you. Copperberg is a great place to start. We are dedicated to bringing you information from industry experts while providing a platform for you to connect with mutuals.
Coming together is the best way to ensure we all weather the storms, unrest, and delays that come our way.