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Supply Chain Risk Management Considerations for the Coronavirus Outbreak



by Jarrod McAdoo

This blog was written at the beginning of the global pandemic.  Thankfully many organizations have weathered this storm and this is a testament to how well they manage supplier risk.  However, now is not the time to be complacent and now is the time to modify and check your Supply Chain Risk Management strategy, starting with the tips below.

Supply Chain Risk Management on the World Stage

The impact of the Coronavirus continues to be felt globally and the World Health Organization and government continues to urge caution as they implement controls to stem the flow of the infection.  The death toll has reached over 900 and the number of confirmed cases has exceeded more than 40,000. Even more concerning is that the death toll has spread outside of mainland China and ships outside of ports in Hong Kong and Japan are being quarantined.  

Beyond this enormous human toll, the Coronavirus and the efforts to control the spread of the virus is being felt throughout the world’s supply chain.  Factories in China are facing staffing shortages or are electing to remain closed to protect its workforce, airlines have suspended flights to China, and restrictions and regulations designed to control the spread of the virus could have an adverse impact on cargo leaving and entering ports all over the world.  Some of the impacts have been immediate, but some of the latent impacts will not be felt for months. This will impact manufacturers and retailers who rely on these products and labor, the logistics haulers expecting to transport the material, and ultimately the end consumers. 

This crisis demonstrates the increasingly global nature and complexity of supply chains and the imperative to manage the risk within this complex supply chain.  When comparing this outbreak with the outbreak of SARS in 2003 it is striking to see how quickly Coronavirus has eclipsed SARS in the number of infections. It has taken the Coronavirus only two months to infect 75% of the total number infected by SARS over a nine-month period.  This also shows how much China has developed in terms of population and establishing itself as a key cog in the world’s economy. This highlights the danger of Coronavirus becoming a global issue if not controlled closely.  

What can organizations do to prepare themselves for supply chain risk?  

While many leading organizations have developed programs to manage and deal with supply chain disruption, this situation is a unique challenge for even those organizations with advanced risk management programs.  Regardless of the level of sophistication in an organization’s risk program, all organizations can take steps to monitor their supply chain and prepare themselves for the impacts of the epidemic.  

These steps include

  1. Know where your supply chain is located – Identify those countries that are currently at high risk and map your supply chain against these affected areas.  This mapping should include evaluating those key tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers as well as key logistics hubs that could be impacted. 
  2. Continuously monitor changes – Understand that the crisis is still unfolding and the true impacts from a supply chain disruption perspective may not reveal themselves for months.  Establish a process to monitor other regions outside the infected areas that could be impacted. Are ports outside the infected areas being impacted through disruption or through new regulations to protect against transmission of the virus?  Are suppliers struggling financially without access to the Chinese markets, jeopardizing their viability? 
  3. Diversify the supply base – Like a financial portfolio, look for opportunities to rebalance and diversify the supply base to minimize the risk and take actions to qualify these suppliers in the event they are needed. 

This recent crisis underscores the need for organizations to establish and maintain effective proactive risk management programs for their supply chain.  While it is impossible for organizations to anticipate these types of outbreaks, an effective risk management program, complete with processes, tools, and data can lessen the impact and the time it takes an organization to recover.   

Learn more about the challenges and steps necessary to build an effective and proactive Supply Chain Risk Management program in this research “Integrated Risk Management: A Playbook for Procurement” from The Hackett Group or have a look at Ivalua’s Supplier Risk Center.

Jarrod McAdoo

Jarrod McAdoo

Director of Product Marketing

Jarrod McAdoo brings over 26 years of procurement experience to Ivalua as a product expert for the Analytics & Insights, Supplier Management, Spend Analysis, and Environmental Impact Center Solutions. A frequent thought leadership contributor for the Ivalua Blog, Jarrod has worked across multiple industries, including higher education, public sector, retail, manufacturing, and engineered products. Prior to his time at Ivalua, Jarrod held various roles in category and supplier management—including strategic sourcing and procurement team management where he led teams to implement shared service procurement models and Source-to-Pay systems. Jarrod holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Duquesne University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

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