While there have been past events – natural disasters, diseases, economic recessions – that have impacted the supply chain both globally and domestically, the current COVID-19 crisis has reached unprecedented levels of disruption. Keeping supply chains operating at their normal levels plays a monumental (but often overlooked) role in maintaining day-to-day life as we have come to know it. Shippers, logistics companies, and other supply chain players can take the following preventative measures and best practices to better detect and respond to major disruptions, avoiding longstanding crises in their supply chains.
The supply chains hardest hit in times of widespread disruption and operational shutdowns are those whose operations are predominantly located in heavily impacted areas. Over the years, China has become the world’s major manufacturing hub, so supply chains that rely mainly on sourcing and manufacturing from China and nearby regions face huge challenges. By implementing diverse sourcing points throughout their supply chains, both globally and domestically, organizations will allow for more robust solutions and effective responses to disruption, maintaining more business-as-usual operations.
Invest in innovation
Innovation is how mankind has continued to evolve in all aspects of life, and the supply chain is no different. Innovative technologies like automation, AI/ML enabled forecasting and planning systems, and predictive and prescriptive analytics allow supply chains to better detect a potential disruption before it happens and adapt in real-time as disruptions occur. When combined, the following examples of each give supply chains the strongest chance of successfully emerging from crises:
- Automation can support workforces in times of increased demand, volume, and worker absences through more efficient production, fulfillment, and distribution.
- AI/ML enabled demand forecasting and planning can optimize inventory during times of volatile demand spikes while reducing operational waste.
- Predictive/prescriptive analytics take in external signals from the environment around them and can recommend corrective actions in real-time to mitigate risks and losses caused by disruptions.
Empower the workforce
Even with the highest levels of technology and innovation, the workforce will always play a pivotal role in managing crises. Empowering workforces with tools like workforce management systems help maintain employee morale, engagement, and productivity through crises. They provide increased collaboration, visibility, and direction, optimizing operational efficiency when time is of the essence.
Transparent communication from management to the workforce at regular intervals is also crucial during times of disruption and crises in both the near- and long-term. Communicating best practices, providing employees with alerts and notifications as circumstances change, and being transparent in the organization’s business condition is key to retaining and motivating talented employees.
Life is full of uncertainty, and global, domestic, and local disruptions and crises will keep happening at levels previously thought unimaginable. These events directly impact organizations’ supply chains, which is why taking the necessary measures to account for such happenings in all aspects of dealing with supply chain disruptions and crises is paramount. Structuring supply chains with more tactical, innovative, and engineered designs will mitigate the impacts brought on by crises and keep the world safer moving forward.