It is difficult to think of an aspect of business that has not been affected by the pandemic, but supply chain management has been particularly challenging. From toilet paper shortages to medical supply delivery shortages, the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in most supply chains. The silver lining of the chaos created by COVID-19 is that there are some important lessons to take away that can improve supply chain management and reduce the risk of future disruptions. These lessons are just a few of the things that supply chain managers can learn from the pandemic.
Pay Attention to Global Conditions
Pandemic-related quarantines and closures may feel like they happened in an instant, but the signs were brewing for several months. In December 2019, it was clear that a virus for which there was no treatment or vaccine was circulating, and the lockdown of Wuhan in China hinted that the situation could become dire. Supply chain managers will know in the future that paying attention to these kinds of signs and preparing right away will help them avoid some of the difficulties associated with this current pandemic.
Diversify Supplier Sources
One issue that emerged in supply chain management during the pandemic, particularly in life science-related businesses, is the number of companies that rely on single supplier sources for critical inputs. During the pandemic, the fallacy of this approach became clear. COVID-related closures and associated delivery delays created an avalanche of problems for a variety of industries. Having multiple suppliers may have initial upfront costs, but in the long run, it reduces the chances of disruptions, since companies can rely on multiple vendors to get the inputs they need.
Test the System
You don’t know how a system in crisis will react if the system isn’t tested. The worst time to test the supply chain system is in real time, when an issue is actually occurring. Companies should periodically stress test their supply chains, rather than just doing supplier audits, which won’t adequately expose vulnerabilities in the system.
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