Financial crisis. Check. Environmental catastrophes. Check. What’s next? Is this the year of political disruption?
Working in supply chain is like starring in a Rocky movie. You keep getting knocked down and you have to keep getting back up.
You don’t need to go back any further than a decade to understand the many challenges supply chains have endured over the years. Interestingly enough, the first episode of Breaking Bad that aired in 2008 reflected what it was like being in supply chain risk management at the time: “Hey, a science teacher is cooking meth, how much worse could it get?”
If you were a fan of the series, you were on the edge of your seat amazed at the plot’s crazy twists and turns. My guess is people who didn’t see the show were the supply chain practitioners too busy trying to ride the storm of the 2008 financial crash.
Supply chains had to deal with squeezing margins and dramatically cut costs, which included significant downsizing. Doing more with less wasn’t an option; it was a necessity. Maybe the one good thing to come out of it was some companies figured out how they could survive with lower inventories. Some suppliers weren’t so lucky. In 2009, I’m sure most we’re thinking, “How much worse could it get?”
Well, it got a lot worse.
In a world where everything is changing, staying in one place is the fastest way to find yourself falling further behind. The same is true when it comes to your supply chain. Remaining stationary in your processes, relying on inefficient technology, and refusing to keep pace is how successful companies find themselves lagging behind the competition.
It’s not just about who does it better anymore. It’s about doing things differently. That’s when breakthroughs happen. Unfortunately, many companies are still looking at their supply chains with a lens focused solely on efficiency and the bottom line. That strategy alone won’t yield long-term success. There has to be the opportunity for innovation, as well. It’s what drives new products and pushes companies into new markets.
Hence the industry’s latest buzzword – bimodal. Most often credited with coining the term ‘bimodal supply chain’, research firm Gartner describes it as a supply chain made up of two distinct modes. Mode one is about cost-saving measures and efficiency and appeals to a need for predictability, accuracy and reliability. It’s focused on maintaining the status quo and managing day-to-day operations.
Mode two is all about experimentation and driving revolutionary changes in how supply chains adapt to new risks and opportunities.
With Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic Coast in over 10 years that has already brought severe damage to Haiti, the Bahamas and several Southeastern U.S. states, obvious disruptions to supply chains and supply chain risk management were a given. Many of the states affected contained key ports and supply destinations, as well as transportation and logistics hubs. These ports accounted for 18.3% of U.S. container import shipments and 49.8% of east coast and Gulf of Mexico imports in September, according to an article from the Business Information Industry Association.
- Starting with Miami, this port primarily handles containerized cargo with small amounts of breakbulk, vehicles and industrial equipment. It is the largest container port in the state of Florida and ninth in the United States.
- Going up the coast in Jacksonville, FL, there is a huge port that receives the second-most automobiles in the US along with all types of cargo.
- Heading further north along the coast is Savannah, GA, home to the largest single container terminal in the United States. In 2015, the Port of Savannah moved 8.2% of total U.S. containerized loaded cargo volume and more than 18% of the East Coast container trade.
- A little more northward up the coast is the port of Charleston, SC. In 2016, this port handled 1.1 million containers, moved 1.2 million tons of non-containerized cargo and had the most productive crane moves in the U.S.
Supply chain risk management in the spotlight
A few days ago, the world’s seventh largest container shipping company by volume, Hanjin Shipping, filed for bankruptcy protection. A lot of the products being shipped by Hanjin are headed to U.S. and European retailers (toys, electronics, clothing, furniture, etc) getting ready for the holiday season. However, many ports are not allowing these ships to dock due to the risk of creditors seizing the ships, and any such event will cause congestion in the ports.
According to sources, Stevedores are demanding advance payment in cash. As Hanjin is fighting to prevent seizure by creditors, several ships remain marooned in the sea. A contact of mine with firsthand knowledge of the matter commented that it is a nightmare to claim containers from a bankrupt shipper. In short, it is a mess!
Such risks are on the rise. Companies are spending more on outsourced products and services than in the past. There is a constant push to free up working capital by leaning down on the inventories. Lead times are in weeks and months in cases where manufacturing is outsourced to firms on the other side of the earth. Linear supply chains as we know them are turning into supply networks with more players and parties than ever before. To understand the geopolitical risks, all you need to do is to turn on network news. Given all this, one would think that supply chain risk management is more prominent now. However, a 2014 report by University of Tennessee on managing risk in global supply chains points out that 90% of the firms surveyed do not quantify risk when outsourcing production!
Hi, my name is Alexa and I am a chocoholic. It’s been less than a day since my last indulgence.
There’s no two ways about it. When it comes to the cocoa-laden confectionery, I’m hooked. It doesn’t matter if it’s milk, dark or white. Anything with even a hint of chocolatey goodness will suffice – and sadly for my waist line, one little taste is never enough.
What’s even more unfortunate than the effect on my figure is that it’s about to get a whole lot more difficult to feed my addiction thanks to a lack of insight into supply chain risk. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently posted an article about the huge shortfall in the cocoa crop in Ghana. Dry weather coupled with the late application of vital pesticides to cocoa trees has caused the crop to shrink significantly, and sparked fears growers may not be able to deliver enough cocoa to fulfill their contracts. That means manufacturers will likely be scrambling to find enough cocoa to satisfy their chocolate producing needs.
Skyrocketing prices aside, this latest news is enough to send any chocolate lover to the store to stock up, and really puts the spotlight on a major supply chain risk in the $7 billion cocoa-futures market. As the WSJ points out, there is a drastic over reliance on the Ivory Coast and Ghana when it comes to the global cocoa supply chain. Together they account for more than half of the world’s cocoa supplies!
With that much of the world’s supply coming from one region, it’s no wonder the price and availability of chocolate fluctuates as wildly as it does. Natural disasters, poor growing conditions, pandemics, war, political and social unrest, terrorism and accidents can all have huge consequences on supply chains relying on either a single supplier, or suppliers who are all in the same geographic region.
I suspect that few folks in the supply chain management world would argue with the fact that supply chain management is risky business.
The reality is that risk comes in many forms (including anticipated risk, uncontrollable risk and unanticipated risk). It’s constantly changing. And the amount of risk being faced by supply chain professionals has been on the rise for the past 20 years.
When we talk risk, we’re not just talking about headline-making tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. We’re talking everyday risks as well. (Some might even argue that risk in daily business activities and decision making can be just as, if not more, impactful than exceptional risk events.) Ensuring success in ‘normal’ operating conditions and when faced with catastrophic supply chain disruptions is why developing risk management strategies should be a top priority.
Over the years, working for and with numerous manufacturing companies, I’ve seen many supply chain practices that cost companies money. Over the next several weeks, I’ll outline these issues and discuss some ideas around how to avoid these practices. You can find the previous posts here:
Reason #5: Not having a supply chain risk management process
In today’s society, unless you are rich enough that you can afford to replace your possessions, pay for your health care, and cover your liabilities, you have insurance (unless you are poor enough that you can’t afford the premiums). Insurance is a form of risk mitigation. Insurance protects us against theft, fire, accidents, and health emergencies and if this were to happen, it can provide for our family when we pass. Yet, a surprising number of companies (while they have traditional insurance) do not have a supply chain risk management “insurance” aka a supply chain risk management process. To put it another way, they have insurance to protect them if someone trips on their property and sues, but don’t have a risk management process to mitigate against their top supplier going out of business. The insurance covers what could be a million dollar risk, supply chain risk management protects against what could be a MULTI-BILLION dollar risk.
Supply chain risk can be broken out into multiple different types;
- Geographic: This includes natural disasters and political unrest. These are the types of issues that impact supply for an entire region. We saw this type of issue over the past several years with the Japan earthquake / Tsunami in and with the Thailand floods. Political issues can also have a significant impact on supply. Conflicts, government policy changes, regulatory changes and coups can mean that supply is suddenly turned off or that a market is no longer available.
- Supplier issues: This includes quality issues, delivery reliability, financial stability, reputation, strikes, and pricing changes. We talked about many of these issues in the first post of this series – “Offshoring without getting the full picture”. The key point here is that in today’s connected supply chain, your suppliers are an extension of your own business. If your supplier fails financially, it will impact your business. If your supplier goes on strike or can’t deliver for some other reason, it will impact your business. If your supplier has had a shaky human rights record, your business’s reputation can get tarnished. If your supplier decides that you need to pay more or global currency exchange rates drive up the cost of a component (and you have no alternatives ready to go) your margins can be significantly impacted.
- Customer Demand: Interestingly, this is often ignored when people think about supply chain risk however, it can be one of the biggest factors. If your demand decreases, you have excess inventory or idle capacity. If your demand disappears completely you are out of business. If your demand increases significantly, your supply chain can be overwhelmed and delivery becomes an issue.
Imagine yourself in this scenario; You wake up at the usual time, and over coffee, you review the news. As you flip through the articles on your iPad, you see it. A major earthquake in Taiwan. Then you get the e-mail. One of your key suppliers uses a supplier that is in the area affected by the quake and is effectively shut down for the foreseeable future… Uh oh. It’s going to be a crazy, busy day.
When you get to work, you get your team working on this issue. You don’t panic because you are ready for this. You have a supply chain risk management strategy in place. This key supplier had been identified and sure enough, you have a second source primed and ready to go. As you put things in place to switch over to the other supplier you mentally pat yourself on the back. It looks like you should be able to ride this crisis out without missing a beat. A few hours later, your procurement head walks in the office. “We have a problem.” The alternate source uses the same supplier in Taiwan. We won’t be getting any of this key component for the next several weeks…maybe months. Your heart sinks as you pick up the phone to call your boss…
Think this is a pretty unlikely scenario? Think again. This scenario played out for thousands of companies after the Japan earthquake, the Thailand floods and numerous other smaller scale disasters.
Many companies have accepted the need for Supply Chain Risk Management because they understand that just such a scenario could occur and if they are ready for it but their competitors are not, they have an opportunity to gain market share. The problem is most companies are relatively immature when it comes to Supply Chain Risk Management.
‘SCM World, Innovative Approaches to Supply Chain Risk, Geraint John, July 2014’.
SCM World has published a report ‘Innovative approaches to Supply Chain Risk’ authored by Geraint John, Senior Vice President, Research that outlines an approach to bring your supply chain risk management to the next level of maturity.
Supply chain risk management is not simple otherwise, given the potential impact to corporate revenues,