Each time I get in my car and drive to work, or the grocery store or wherever, there are a myriad of dangers that I might encounter. I could get t-boned at an intersection by a distracted driver; I might blow a tire and swerve into a ditch or a piece of space debris could crash through my windshield. Some perils are, obviously, less likely than others, but the reality is, anything can happen.
While I don’t obsessively worry about every possible risk, I am aware of the possibilities and I take measures to lower both the odds and severity of a mishap. I keep my vehicle well maintained, I buckle up and I pay my auto insurance. Similarly, today’s supply chain professionals must be more conscientious and proactive in their efforts to mitigate the risk of a supply chain disruption and to minimize the impact when the inevitable does occur.
As much as we may feel at the mercy of disruptions from severe weather, natural disasters, economic instability or political and social unrest, members of today’s high tech supply chain have never been better equipped to minimize the risks and capitalize on the opportunities that may arise from a supply chain disturbance.
One of the most simple, but powerful, tools at our disposal is information. Twenty-four hour news stations, social media and cellular communications give us literally instant access to events occurring in the most remote reaches of the world.
More tactically, mapping the physical network of the supply base, including manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution hubs, is an important part of any risk management strategy. The key here is mapping the entire supply chain network, not just top-spend suppliers or first-tier contract manufacturers. Most of this information is relatively accessible through supplier audits and, with the help of Google maps, you can create a pretty comprehensive picture of your physical supply chain.
Remember, though, supply chains are much more fluid than they have ever been. Today’s multinationals are likely to rely on three to five different contract manufacturers (CMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs), and scores of other suppliers around the world for the tens of thousands of parts needed to build and maintain their products. With outsourced production so commonplace, production lines can be shifted between locations within a matter of weeks, so frequent monitoring and updating of supply chain shifts is critical.
IoT technology such as sensors and RFID tracking can also provide meaningful intelligence that may be used to identify and mitigate risk throughout the end-to-end supply chain process. The ability to gather and analyze these constant data inputs is a recognized challenge throughout the supply chain profession. Those who master the digital supply chain sooner, will enjoy a substantial competitive advantage.
Once these various vehicles are used to create a composite picture of the risk landscape, then risk mitigation strategies take center stage. These efforts can range from traditional techniques such as the assignment of a cache of safety stock to more intricate maneuvering of storage facilities and full network design. Deployment of these mitigation strategies requires a detailed recovery and communications plan.
In my upcoming presentation at IBF’s Supply Chain Forecasting & Planning Conference at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Scottsdale, AZ, February 22-23, 2016, I will delve deeper into the growing range of potential disruptors in the high tech supply chain. I will outline the core elements of a comprehensive supply chain risk management strategy, including how to define and map the physical supply chain, the landscape around supply chain risks and their impact on financial metrics, and how to proactively assess potential risk. I hope to see you there.