Supply chains typically operate in distinct segments with limited networks and communication. Those segments are equipped and set-up to handle day-to-day processes from manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing, to overarching inventory control processes.
But emergency scenarios challenge the nature of those established business sections. They can impose unpredictable and changing demands in a short space of time. Out-of-the-ordinary considerations come into critical focus – preserving and protecting human and animal welfare; managing with reduced or materially altered local and regional infrastructure; and working with potentially greatly reduced human and business resource.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to begin insulating and isolating your supply chain potential disaster-related risks and maintaining resilient inventory control practices.
Focus on governance
Bring together your key suppliers and essential business partnerships. Collectively, decide which firm is better placed to lead or direct key aspects of the supply chain if one or more points are disrupted. Meet regularly to keep all partners informed about matters that are happening so that everyone is better able to be prepared; this includes having agreed on how information can be shared and kept accurate and up-to-date.
Relationships matter: your business is more than just inventory control
Alongside collaborating with supply chain stakeholders, cultivate trust and strength in your business relationships. Circumstances beyond ordinary business can really test the emotional and relationship capital that you may or may not have invested in these partners.
Inventory control across the entire supply chain
Look across the supply chain and develop an understanding of where each business is at now and how each segment interacts. This can include using technology to model the flow of products and shipments. With a robust map in place, you can take steps to build in fail-safes, such as dual sourcing and alternative part suppliers if one or more segments or suppliers are unavailable. These steps let you improve inventory control and oversight, even in times of potential crisis.
Part of this exercise could involve minimising potential flow-on effects for downstream businesses in the chain. Trial different scenarios according to identified risks and test the resilience of your network.
Know your business and its daily operations. Involve your management-level staff in developing risk identification registers and processes. Feed these into your network modelling. Include items like power cuts or a flooding event that isolates of one or more of your distributors, for example.
Be fleet of foot
Above all, disasters and the unexpected can develop quickly and pivot just as fast. Ensure your systems and processes let you brace your business and supply chain in points of pressure but also enable you to bend and flex, should you or a business partner need to adapt to changing circumstances.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.