Lesson Learned: 4 Strategies to Overcome Global Supply Chain Disruptions

Recent events highlight the need to evolve supply chain operations. Overcome global supply chain disruptions with these four strategies.

“I want the works. I want the whole works … And now. Don’t care how. I want it now.”

This declaration (originally hollered by Veruca Salt of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” infamy) wouldn’t be out of place in a conversation with a customer venting their frustration over supply chain disruptions. Customers don’t care how they get their products and all the processes that must align from manufacturing to delivery. They, simply, just want it now.  

COVID-19 related market disruptions have changed the entire supply chain’s industry’s approach to global manufacturing and shipping operations. Before 2020, most organizations’ modus operandi was to deliver products to their customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. Because of the extreme bottlenecks and crumbling of the supply chain under pressure, supply chain leaders are still striving for quick and accurate shipments but are seeking improvements to ensure sustainable supply chain operations. Despite extreme bottlenecks pushing the supply chain nearly to the breaking point, industry leaders are making improvements to existing operations to ensure quick and accurate shipments are sustainable in the future.

Supply chain leaders can overcome global supply chain disruptions by designing their supply chain to be proactive – not reactive – to better respond to unexpected obstacles in ordinary operations. Consider making these four modifications to your global supply chain processes, to build a more resilient supply chain.

1. Better BOM Management

Stockpiling is a risky practice. Excessive stockpiling will leave you with a crowded and – at the drop of a hat – a potentially worthless warehouse. On the flip side, just-in-time inventory was proven flawed during the pandemic and the Suez Canal bottleneck in 2021. A delayed shipping container or a shipment of goods held up in customs shouldn’t derail your operations.  

So, how can you ensure you have the right components, in the right places, at the right times? The answer: a bill-of-materials (BOM) management tool, such as Quotengine. BOM management allows leaders to quote or buy their entire parts list, even ones that are thousands of items long. The ability to pick and choose from 4,000 electronic components from more than 3,500 suppliers under one platform eliminates vendor fatigue and streamlines the purchasing process. Plus, price and compliance visibility give supply chain leaders the confidence that they’re getting the best parts at the best deals.

2. Diversify suppliers and geographically

The prolonged semiconductor shortage is an endorsement enough for diversifying suppliers. During the lockdown phase at the height of the pandemic, semiconductor manufacturing halted, leading to a backlog of uncompleted, high-demand products. The shortage affected 169 sectors in automotive and consumer electronics and persists today.  

Diversifying suppliers and strategically scattering fulfillment centers geographically ensure that you always have the right amount of the correct components where they’re most needed. For example, if an outdoor product is more prone to needing replacement parts due to harsh United States east coast winters, consider housing a distribution center and stockpiling spare parts and raw material closer geographically. This will also cut down on delivery times and fuel and shipping costs.

What supply chain leaders need is an electronic components marketplace they can count on. Sourcengine compiles more than 3,500 traceable and vetted suppliers of semiconductors, passives, interconnects, and other miscellaneous parts in one place, allowing leaders to diversify their suppliers yet keep their purchasing portal consistent.

3. Increase visibility and automation

To identify crimps in your supply pipeline, visibility into every step in the process will make clear where efficiencies are needed. You may even find a few cost-saving opportunities at the same time. A single pane of glass view that displays operations in real-time will show leaders where they can better align processes to make sure no department is left behind tapping their feet. Also, optimizing the timing of tasks will lessen the burden on teams already experiencing a labor shortage. In their efforts to become more efficient, leaders cannot cut corners with their human talent. Manufacturing and order fulfillment floors are dangerous places. Attempting to speed up already accelerated processes could – literally – be fatal.

When leaders have visibility into every process, they can pinpoint areas that need optimizing and bookmark processes that are good candidates for automation. Automation not only makes dangerous workplaces safer, but it makes output more predictable when it works in tandem with humans. Human workers can have days where productivity lags. For example, maybe a forklift driver left work 20 minutes early for an appointment or order fulfillment employees attended an hour-long learning session about new policies. Industrial robotics and automated processes don’t have days off. When calibrated correctly, accidents that halt industrial production, cost millions in downtime and threaten human life are all but eliminated.  

Automation, ML, and AI are the way of the future, but that doesn’t mean human labor is a relic of the past. Augmenting current processes with automated components will solidify a team’s productivity and predictability, but still maintain the necessary flair of human decision-making and creativity.

4. Leverage predictive data

Evolving from day-by-day survival to long-term, sustainable supply chain management requires that supply chain organizations have spare time, talent, and funds to devote to making necessary upgrades. Those three critical resources always seem in short supply, but predictive data and analytics will stretch their capabilities by highlighting the areas that need the most attention.

In tandem with real-time insights, predictive data allows supply chain leaders to make quick decisions to adjust workflows in response to likely future conditions. Predictive data can encompass transaction and pricing histories, market trends, accessibility of component parts, and BOM risks. Investing in analytics is much less of a financial burden than reactive shipping and manufacturing.  

Datalynq is a supply chain market intelligence, analytics, and obsolescence case management solution specifically for the electronic component industry. With it, stay one step ahead of the market with real-time data and analytics to fully optimize your supply chain and stay fully informed.

Excel amid uncertainty and upheaval

Supply chain professionals are constantly seeking the pinnacle of agility, visibility, proactivity, scalability, and sustainability. To nurture smoother operations, supply chains must be flexible to absorb shockwaves instead of relying on rigid timelines and workflows. Under supply chain pressure, rigid operations fracture.        

Leaders must forgo the outdated cost-above-all-else method in manufacturing and logistics and start investing in sustainable operations now. Costs may increase in the short term, but the resulting supply chain efficiency is more cost-effective in the long run. Not only will your employees, partners, and customers appreciate a smooth supply chain, but potential investors and government bodies are likely to notice. How you respond during uncertainty reflects your reliability and discipline in preparing for the future.  

Looking for a partner to guide you through supply chain logistics, distribution, or product design? Employ expertise from Sourceability. Submit an RFQ today to get started.

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