How to keep supply chains going during these times

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is the greatest public health emergency many of us have faced in living memory.

With the rapid outset of the virus, many businesses were unprepared for such an outbreak, with limited contingency plans in place to deal with such an outbreak. While an outbreak of this scale could never be predicted, the impact it has had on the manufacturing capabilities of small, medium and large companies has been vast. With several reasons for the current output limitations, one of the most recognised factors of the current outbreak has been the disruption to vital global supply chains.

What previously looked like a localised contained outbreak at first has spiralled into the global pandemic we see today. With checkpoints, quarantine zones, increased checks on the movements of goods and people, combined with the closure of borders and vital travel routes across the globe. Existing, well-oiled supply chains have witnessed a distinct decrease in capacity providing increasing pressure on the output of industries – it is clear that competition now is not between companies and their products, but how effective their supply chain is. So how can a company keep supply chains going through this current outbreak?

Well, unfortunately, there is no golden formula, as the primary needs change from company to company, supply chains will have been affected in differing ways

1. Planning

While some companies may believe it is too late to plan, an effective and reliable response will not be achieved without an in-depth strategy. The planning stage creates the opportunity to finalise strategies, adapt pre-existing measures and most importantly check the viability of the measure you put in place. Without a proper plan in place, it will be nigh-on impossible for a business to meet the current demand they may be facing, or more critically increase external costs which they cannot simply cope with. Every business needs a plan or blueprint, or a roadmap based on which the strategies are made. Planning helps to identify the demand and supply trends in the market

2. information

The world we live in today is defined by the continuous and immediate flow of information around the world. To be successful but more importantly efficient, a business must stay abreast with all the latest information about the various aspects of its production of essential products, border controls, limitations of movement and most importantly the health of its workforce. Information is crucial in a knowledge-based world economy, and this has never been so prominent. Ignorance or naivety about any aspect of the business may limit an effective response to the current challenges facing a supply chain.

3. Source

Be flexible where you can.

Suppliers play a very crucial role in supply chain management systems. Products and services sold to the end-user are created with the help of different sets of raw materials. With several high profile outbreaks shutting down industries, as seen in Wuhan and Northern Italy, it is imperative a supply chain can be adapted to receive different goods from another source. If a supplier is unable to supply the necessary items, there must be contingencies in place to keep the supply of necessary items flowing, whether this is at a limited capacity.

Although sourcing issues will cause smaller businesses to have supply chain issues in receiving the vital materials or products they need. The engineering and manufacturing industry in the UK is supported by some of the best engineering marketplaces and engineering/manufacturing trade associations. Although competition between firms is vital to raise standards across the engineering and manufacturing sectors, the importance of sharing knowledge and supporting each other has never been so important. With the demand increasing for certain products to support frontline services, manufacturing and engineering have never been so important.

4. Inventory

For an effective supply chain and production of goods, an inventory must be kept and thoroughly maintained. As supplies of certain components will be limited, an inventory will provide an accurate representation of how much can be produced before a business may run out of certain goods, but most importantly limit unnecessary costs by placing orders of items which a business may already have a considerable supply of.

Limiting the unnecessary external costs of a supply chain will increase a business’s chance of being financially solvent throughout this current challenge we are facing.