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  • Marina Yang

The Agile Supply Chain

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

2020 has been a tough year on many fronts. Besides the heavy loss of lives and the affliction that Covid-19 has brought every American, our supply chains have probably been the greatest critical factors to our problems. In addition, one of the most contentious elections in US history is looming over our heads, while businesses are trying to get back to normal. The future of previously unappreciated commodities, such as toilet paper and medical supplies, stand against the backdrop of thousands of industries looking to recover and strengthen their supply chains.

Uncertainty over trade wars, international agreements, and the future of business travel and global manufacturing require that we rethink how we can be prepared for what’s to come. As businesses reassess their impacts and build a new norm, one thing is certain: we need to be more agile than ever.

What steps have you taken to mitigate supply chain or logistical risks for your business? Will what worked in the past work for the current global situation? What’s in your company’s supply chain survival kit? How quickly will it adapt to the post-Covid world?

These are just a few of the questions we need answered.

Prioritizing Priorities

Businesses have many competing priorities to focus on, such as ensuring enough material and parts can be delivered on time to production without hiccups or delivery delays, growing at hyper-speed while ensuring there is sufficient funding to sustain the growth trajectory, and building the infrastructure and systems that can meet the growing demand while fending off overseas competitors. Not many startups put supply chain readiness at the top of the list. Managers know the issues are there, but choose to focus on putting out the immediate fires first.

We can look at lessons learned from Tesla, where oftentimes there is a gap between executives’ vision and the executability of it. To bridge this void, growing businesses can identify alternative supply chain elements early on. It is an investment that will have a bigger ROI in the long run. Though supply chain needs may vary from one business to another, there are several best practices that we would say are key to supply chain success, but the inalienable one is diversification that allows quicker adaptation during a crisis. Supply chain diversification requires at least the following actions:

Identify Alternate Suppliers

It’s crucial to have at least one alternate supplier identified for business’s core components and material. If possible, select the alternate suppliers in a different geographic region from the primary suppliers for speedy ramp up if any disaster hits.

Management needs to understand there are tradeoffs, but being able to quickly adapt in a crisis situation will differentiate your organization from your competitors.

Evaluate and Qualify Comparable Materials

Needless to say, material availability is also critical to the success of manufacturers. Does the product allow for alternate materials? Can the existing tooling be used with different material, or on a different machine? Having pre-qualified alternatives will reduce resources needed to evaluate and quantify new material during challenging times. If no alternatives are available, then have enough buffer material in inventory to ensure production can continue uninterrupted for a set period of time that will allow a contingency plan to kick in.

Plan out Different Shipping Companies and Routes

Businesses are familiar with shipping delays. In addition to adding buffer time to anticipate possible transportation delay and customs holdups, using different shipping carriers or shipping via a different route may mitigate some of these potential issues that may arise. Trade off may be higher shipping costs, but it might save days or weeks in time. Leveraging available data to make an informed decision will go a long way.

There is so much uncertainty with our economy, it’s vital to have contingency plans in place to ensure business continuity during a crisis. In addition to closely monitoring existing suppliers’ schedules, production plans, and logistics, it’s crucial to diversify a business's supply chain. Investing in alternatives early on in the process can mitigate production delays, and ensure supply chain continuity during challenging times.


Interested in learning more or getting a quote for a supply chain service? Send us a message and we will gladly schedule a 1:1 with a member of our team for a complementary consultation.

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