Supply Chain Risk Management

By: Robert N. Edson Issue: Global Trade Section: Jewel Of Collaboration

Global Trade and Collaboration for the New Global Economy

Supply Chain Risk From the title you may be asking yourself “What in the world does supply chain risk management have to do with the theme of this issue of ICOSA which is global trade? The answer is easier than you might think; and more complex at the same time, just like our global supply chain. Confused yet? Good. Let’s straighten things out a bit; in a circular fashion...

The answer is “Everything.” Global trade at its core is an exercise in the basics of supply chain management. Global trade at its core is an exercise in the basics of supply chain management.

From the treaties that enable (or sometimes embattle) global trade, to the most basic concerns of any individual organization at a very local level, at the core of each issue is the supply chain. While it takes many forms and means vastly different things to different people, the global supply chain is becoming more and more interdependent on an exponential level nearly every day. What impact does that have on your business or your personal life? Well that, my friends, depends on your relationships with key suppliers - and your visibility into your own supply chain - not to mention your willingness to be community-oriented in your approach to your business. In other words, collaborate or evaporate.

Train driving out from tunnel.Let me simplify the concept. Metaphorically speaking, “you” could be you, your business, your family, or whatever entity you would like to place there. “You” are on the train tracks in the dark tunnel. You can hear the whistle blowing. How far down the tunnel can you see? Is the train on the same tracks as you are? How far away is the train? And the million dollar question - is that light at the end of the tunnel the other side, or is it the train?

All of those questions are supply-chain risk management questions. The answers to those questions are examples, albeit simplistic of the data swarming around in your supply chain. How much of it you have access to in order to make good decisions for “you” is supply chain risk management.

At the very core of supply chain risk management is collaboration; manifesting key relationships and understanding what is coming down the tracks based on good information…not guesswork.

And if you think your business isn’t reliant on the global supply chain, think again; since the late 1980’s it’s been clear that keeping U.S. companies competitive and sustainable in the ever-changing global economy is a matter of national security.

“My business is part of the global supply chain?” Yes, in more than one way. The global supply chain is infinitely more complex today than it ever has been; even the smallest of companies is reliant upon, or potentially impacted by, changes in the global supply chain. The areas of impact are vast- from food supply to pandemic influenza which has gained much attention with the recent H1N1 outbreak worldwide. Have you considered your ability to get food from the grocery store if the truck drivers are too sick to drive the trucks? What impact would that have on workplace absenteeism, at your business? What impact does that have on your family? Most American households don’t even have a basic 72-hour kit for survival; does your business? Paranoia is not the solution; prudent planning is and that comes from managing key relationships in your supply chain, and understanding what impact a change there might have. The more aware you are, the better you can adjust to changing market conditions, and connections and collaboration are the global keys that unlock the mystery of sustainability and indeed viability of your business, governmental agency, or non-profit organization at a very local level.

Business Charts These issues come to light more often than not during times of crisis; as do the true nature of our relationships and our ability to leverage them to a successful outcome during a crisis. You find out who your real friends are when it is time to step up don’t you? It’s no different in the way you manage your corporate or other key relationships. Although a “crisis” can be defined in many different ways for any given organization, the way in which you choose to deal with them is dependent more often than not on your access to information; hence the need for collaboration. A crisis for one organization could be changes in upcoming trade legislation or treaties; for another it may be a natural or man-made disaster of some kind.

Again, that doesn’t mean paranoia; it means prudent planning in an aware environment, collaborating with those key relationships essential to your business or personal supply chain and that of the organizations around you.

As you are no doubt aware, the economy in the United States is experiencing a downturn. As you may also know, we are not alone; it’s a global downturn. Do bad things like terrorism, natural disasters or pandemic health crises stop just because we are experiencing an economic downturn? Hardly. In fact the opposite is often true; crime rates often rise, acts of violence and pandemic health concerns can be even more impactful during these challenging times, and all with a growing inter-dependency on global suppliers that your organization has ties to - some obvious, some not so much.

Take the H1N1 flu virus for example. What impact has it had on your business? Have you thought about the impact it could have? Workplace absenteeism is a top potential catastrophic effect on businesses. Your 50-employee widget factory may not have any direct exposure to the flu, but do you have generators backing up your key infrastructure in case the power company loses a significant portion of it’s workforce and isn’t able to make repairs during a blizzard? Do you at least have the relationships established with potential suppliers and have you collaborated with them to clearly understand where your business stands? Have you developed key relationships or do you have access to a platform to collaborate with other organizations for that or any other issues surrounding your sustainability? Have you considered your employees ability to deal with these issues in their own supply chains? There are some very good, battle tested and cost-effective platforms available and they have a proven track record of keeping organizations in business, mitigating the impact of issues beyond their control and making sure that your doors stay open; whether it’s to sell a widget, educate the workforce, or serve the homeless.

The key to mitigating the risk associated with the global supply chain is visibility; being able to see as far into the chain as possible and gain relevant, timely information that allows you to be proactive rather than reactive when a problem arises.

This concept leverages one key element - collaboration based on the key relationships that you see as being critical to your organization. Those key relationships can be nurtured and developed for the benefit of your organization. But they can also be developed for the greater good, thereby impacting the global supply chain in many positive ways – something like the MissionMode solutions platform.

The same need for collaboration in a simple platform across governmental, private sector and non-governmental organizations was clear during the recent Democratic National Convention in Denver. Once again, MissionMode solutions recognized the need, and was able to deliver a seamless collaboration platform that had real impact across the metro area; supply chain risk management at work across sector lines. By seamlessly collaborating between law enforcement and private security during the riot on Tuesday night of the convention, the threat to local business was significantly mitigated, as was the ability to remain focused on the issue at hand for law enforcement. It was even successful in delivering over 60,000 bottles of fresh water to citizens waiting in the hot August sun for 6 to 8 hours before being allowed into Invesco Field for the then democratic nominee Barack Obama’s acceptance speech - another example of the supply chain coming full-circle with private industry stepping up to assist public-sector partners in a time of great need. Collaboration and the leveraging of key relationships made it possible; backed by the power of MissionMode and the dedication of the members of the BEOC.

The Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC) proved its value time and again during the DNC by allowing disparate organizations to collaborate & communicate effectively for the common good. The Colorado Emergency Preparedness Partnership, using the MissionMode Software, gave private industry the ability to give a network of Law Enforcement agencies, quasi-governmental entities, and other private industries, a real-time way to communicate in a forum that was all about information sharing. During the DNC, Emergency Operations Centers were able to track trends and movement of crowds, as well as events that had an impact on our mass transit systems and ultimately our citizens in Colorado. It also gave us information on activities occurring in Denver that were critical to be on the lookout for in other jurisdictions. Using MissionMode gave members of the BEOC valuable and timely information including eyewitness views of activities occurring outside the city center that could have had significant metro-wide impact. It also allowed organizations to communicate with each other quickly and specifically. It’s obvious that the partnerships and trust developed by this project will have an impact on many events and situations in the future. “This project was meta-leadership at its best,” said one law enforcement official. Supply Chain Risk Management Pamela Pfeifer, former Executive Director of the CEPP says, “The Business Emergency Operations Center was made possible by the dedication and capabilities of MissionMode. This unprecedented effort to build a public-private partnership communication and information-sharing resource for a national security event benefited not only from the sophisticated technology of MissionMode’s tool, but also the professional team that made the BEOC a success and the inspirational level of corporate responsibility demonstrated to our community by this company. CEPP looks forward to building on this relationship to create a more resilient Colorado.”