Is a Disaster-Proof Supply Chain Possible?

Simon Eskow Uncategorized Leave a Comment

We just saw a record-breaking hurricane slam into a major US city. Setting aside the devastation to people’s lives, we also know theirs businesses will contend with Hurricane Harvey’s destruction into the future. Supply chain managers foresee negative impacts three to six months out, at least. However, can draw lessons from weather events like Harvey? Can you ever really have a disaster-proof supply chain?

Disaster-Proof Supply Chain? You Can’t Plan for Everything

Let’s be honest. No matter how much you prepare, you can’t completely disaster-proof your supply chain. In the first place, a supply chain can extend around the globe. Thus, risks can take many forms, at any step your product takes to get to your customers. Obviously, the limit of supply chain risk goes beyond natural disasters. Factory power outages, shipping company bankruptcies, and cyberattacks can all make it difficult to fulfill your customer orders. However, to the extent of the part of the supply chain completely in your control, you can plan, monitor, and manage. In other words, you can take steps to limit the cost of a disaster.

You Can Be Candid, and Manage Expectations

A disaster-proof supply chain may be out of the question, but preserving the supply chain isn’t. For example, in some cases, you can take steps ahead of a known event to manage customer expectations. That’s what Florida-based Gulf Coast Pet Supplies did. With Hurricane Irma bearing down, the company closed its online and marketplace channels until after they expected the storm to pass. Gulf Coast communicated to customers the primary importance of safety in preparation for the storm. Presumably, customers will see this as a necessary precaution and hold off their orders until the emergency passes.

You Can Communicate With Your Suppliers

Supply chain experts will tell you how important it is to keep in regular communication with suppliers and others that form part of your supply chain. This becomes even more important when your supply chain faces a major disruption. An unexpected disruption to your supply chain will have a run-on effect to your suppliers and their shipping companies. Thus, if nobody can make a disaster-proof supply chain a reality, they can have a plan in place for communicating with supply chain collaborators. This can help avoid problems, like unnecessary shipments and product overstock.

You Can Keep An Eye On Inventory

Real-time and comprehensive inventory visibility won’t give you a disaster-proof supply chain. However, it will give you the necessary information to execute the plans you put in place to respond to a disruption. For example, real-time inventory will tell you what shipments are in route and may be impacted by an event. It will let you see where you may still fulfill orders and route products if you have stock in regions not impacted by an event. In short, it will give you the insight to limit what impact an event has on your ability to fulfill orders. After all, that is the point of a supply chain, in the end.


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