Safeguarding the supply chain: Building strength, resilience and trust in a volatile world

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Certainty and continuity are likely considered the most coveted goals sought by business and world markets alike. But the tumultuous events of recent times have served to destabilise a fluid world order with a subsequent impact on the way every business operates around the globe. Natural disasters, pandemics and geopolitical machinations mean shortages of raw materials, disrupted channels to market and shifting patterns in buyer behaviour.

All of these factors exert downward and unwelcome pressure on global supply chains. A smooth-running and effective supply chain relies on seamless and consistent alignment. One of the core tenets of globalisation has been Just-in-time (JIT) delivery, an inventory and supply chain management strategy that aims to increase efficiency by minimising inventory for business customers. And if recent supply chain disruption has highlighted anything, it is the brittle nature of JIT.

The effectiveness of JIT is dependent on immediate and reliable supply. Without it, the process is undermined leaving businesses up and down the chain unable to provide the service that stakeholders demand, and struggling to meet the quality and timeliness standards that they expect of themselves. While there are hopes of relief on the horizon, no business can afford to emerge from a rough road without learning from their experiences: now is the time to look critically at what recent years can teach us and build on those lessons to create a stronger future.

Track, learn and improve

The recent challenges have highlighted the importance of the three ‘R’s – Resiliency, Robustness and Responsibility – and all businesses must ensure that they are invested in their execution of all three. Resiliency means building a shield to protect against tough times; Robustness demands that businesses and their partners are able to react quickly should that shield be breached; and Responsibility acknowledges the place that all businesses have in the world, and encourages high quality products, a sustainable approach, and a culture of trust.

No matter how strong a business’s standing in the market, no matter how strong its relationships with its supply and value chains, a deep analysis of its processes, practices, successes, and failures will uncover potential improvements. Audit and analysis carry monetary and time costs but are investments which offer a great return – particularly if new efficiencies are found to improve interactions with suppliers and customers.

Multiple suppliers for component sourcing

International conflict, both physical and intellectual, has changed the geopolitical landscape and impacted the way companies are able to operate across borders. The possibility for fresh sanctions or unexpected overheads looms large and may affect suppliers’ ability to produce or ship stock at any time.

Dual or secondary sourcing is one way to alleviate the potential of disruption. If a product requires specific components, for example, manufacturers should look to source them from more than one supplier. Building buffer stock of critical components, either within suppliers or in-house, ensures supply can be maintained even if there is unexpected disruption to the supply chain.

Businesses should not underestimate the levels of stock they may require. Keeping sufficient components on hand to support manufacturing for a year, for example, may sound like overkill, but it both protects against supply chain issues and allows for sudden spikes in industry and customer demand to be met without overwhelming suppliers. Working with several suppliers also allows for balance to be created. With proper coordination, suppliers with a surplus can aid those suffering a shortage, helping to maintain supply chain continuity for everyone.

Improve communication with key partners

It is all too easy to settle into comfortable working arrangements, but relationships with trusted partners must be consistently maintained and improved to ensure the best outcomes for all parties. In recent years the need for open and transparent dialogue has become more apparent. The left hand must know what the right hand is doing; involving one’s partners in discussions surrounding production, sourcing and manufacturing ensures nasty surprises are minimised.

Better communication also leads to new avenues for improvement and a trusted relationship to be built. Take strategic forecasting, for example. Creating open dialogue allows manufacturers to take a more proactive role in customers’ planning processes. This, in turn, allows customers to offer manufacturers greater predictability. The better placed any party is to know what the other is doing, the better they can relay that to other members of the supply chain, and the better every entity can prepare for what needs to be done and when. Clearer communication also points the way to the creation of smarter support systems, ensuring that supply chain problems can be addressed smoothly, with minimal disruption for any party.

A clear path to evolution

It should be clear that every business must face the realities of the modern supply chain if it is to grow. The world is volatile, and that is unlikely to change. In order to thrive, organisations up and down the chain must consistently evolve and seek improvements which leaves them more resilient, robust, and responsible. They must learn from difficult challenges and adapt their practices to neutralise future problems; build a culture of trust and communication which solidifies their position and lubricates the wheels of the supply chain; and nurture a spirit of close collaboration which helps them support and learn from key partners.

Some of these changes may seem contrary to the philosophy of JIT management, and in some ways they are – but they do not necessarily signal the end of JIT. They represent a softening of its edges. Relying upon a supply chain structure which has proven itself susceptible to failure, facing an inability to deliver and the consequences which follow, is not something business should have to contend with again. Scraping away a little of JIT’s bleeding-edge efficiency is vital if businesses are to face up to the difficulties of the modern supply chain, because any extra cost is fully offset by the potential ramifications of a supply chain failure. Proper preparation sets businesses up to act more predictably and consistently keep their promises. Do that, and partners and customers come away with the best possible experience – and keep coming back.

Learn more about how Axis secures its supply chain:

https://www.axis.com/en-gb/compliance

 

Author Bio: Linn Storäng, Regional Director Northern Europe, Axis Communications
Linn has held senior positions within strategic roles at Axis Communications for the past 5 years, recently becoming Regional Director for Northern Europe. Linn is a strategic thinker who likes to be very closely involved with business and operations processes, leading by example and striving to empower colleagues with her positivity and passion for innovation. Linn relishes the ongoing challenge to find new ways to meet the needs of her customers, and strives to forge ever stronger relationships with partner businesses. Prior to joining Axis, Linn held senior sales and account management roles within the construction industry