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The unique role of the supply chain industry in the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted on March 2020

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​As travel restrictions are causing flights and trains to be cancelled and social distancing measures are bringing regular life as we know it to a halt in many regions, some industries are hit particularly hard by the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. Travel and tourism, hospitality and producers of luxury goods and non-essential items are facing tough times. Demand in many parts of Europe is temporarily disappearing and government restrictions on business operations mean some manufacturing sites are forced to dial back if not stop production entirely.

At the same time, in the supply chain industry not all companies will be affected in the same way, depending on their products. Many companies like manufacturers of medical or hygienic products, food and beverages and products essential for daily living will see an unprecedented increase in demand, putting immense pressure on their supply chains.

To meet these unusual requirements, there are 3 priorities the supply chain industry has to look out for, now more than ever, to ensure a steady stream of products.

1. Operational Excellence / Manufacturing

If your sites are open, you need to make sure you can produce all the goods that are in demand efficiently. Essential home items like toilet roll, cleaning products and hand sanitizer, as well as face masks, clinical supplies for hospitals and GP practices need to be produced in higher volumes, in order to mitigate any product shortages. Do you have the right personnel in place to oversee production and mange unforeseen problems?

2. Procurement

In order for your production and operations to run as efficiently as possible, your procurement strategies need to be just as bullet-proof. Where are you procuring your raw materials from? Do you have a clear overview of who all your suppliers are and if they are potentially based in countries that are affected by government restrictions? Are they dependent on additional suppliers upstream that might be affected differently? Ensure you have contingency plans in place, as your current suppliers might be less reliable than usual and might also not be equipped to maintain higher volumes. Consider diversifying your sources.

3. Logistics & Distribution

Finally, if you’re certain the efficient production can be warranted without a lack of material or parts, it is essential to ensure the products are reaching the market in time. Be aware of how changes to usual regulations such as adjusted truck driving-limits, partially closed borders within the EU and different volumes of traffic might affect your delivery times. Is your workforce affected by any of the developments surrounding coronavirus? A focus on people is critical to ensure your distribution is uninterrupted.

In these challenging times, we have been given a strong reminder of how entangled the world’s economies and markets have become with complex supply chains. More than ever, organisations in the end-to-end supply chain need to fill business-critical roles to deliver food, resources and medicines on time.

We are committed to supporting you through this period. Whether you are working from home and want to talk to a consultant, or your business has already identified your new talent needs, our global team is working around the clock to provide this vital service.

We are in this together. Get in touch with our market experts when you are ready.

Technical OperationsTom Willis, Managing Principal Consultant

ProcurementGrant Robertson, Head of Procurement EMEA - SVP

Supply Chain / LogisticsJack Robson, Head of Supply Chain Search - SVP