3 Best Practices — and 1 New Resource — for Managing COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruption

Hurricanes. Floods. Over the years, Rhode Island’s manufacturers have weathered (pun intended) disruptions to their supply chain from natural disasters and other challenges here and across the globe.

However the COVID-19 coronavirus has put stress on supply chains in more ways and for a longer sustained time than most manufacturers anticipated. Polaris MEP Project Manager Chris Cinieri and Growth & Strategy Manager Mary Johnson shared three best practices for addressing disruption in a recent webinar. (Webinar video below.)

What is Supply Chain Disruption? Why is COVID-19 Disruption Different?

Every manufacturer is part of a supply chain which extends back to providers of raw materials and forward to their customers, which often include other manufacturers.

Modern supply chains are focused on competitiveness — reducing costs and inventory, improving speed to market, ensuring reliability. Those managing supply chains have been focused on how to deal with short-term, localized disruptions such as a hurricane or the early 90s credit union collapse.

Illustration of traditional and emergency COVID-19 PPE supply chain. SOURCE: https://www.ciras.iastate.edu/

COVID-19 coronavirus has led to disruptions on every side. For example, materials from China or Italy couldn’t make it to PPE manufacturers. There was a surge in demand from customers and even new customers vying for products, as these graphics from the Center for Industrial Research and Service illustrate.

While the system is getting smoother, shortages and challenges persist.

3 Supply Chain Management Steps To Take During COVID-19

Here are three best practices shared during the webinar:

  1. If your supply chain is already impacted, think about both the short- and long-term impacts of your decisions. Can you make adjustments to staffing? How will production prices impact sales and vice versa?
  2. If you expect (or suspect) disruptions are coming, build in additional and alternative suppliers. For example, proactively issue a PO to secure transport capacity by having back-up carriers.
  3. Begin planning for the next disruption. Take what you’re learning now and apply it towards plans for next year … and beyond. This includes conducting risk assessments of your supply chain and analyzing Total Cost of Ownership to revisit overseas sourcing.

“It’s not enough to delegate supply chain decisions to the purchasing manager,” advises Chris. Operations, hiring and the financial team must be heavily involved. The team will want to monitor global events and have a disaster response plan in place.

Supplier Scouting: A New, National Resource for Rhode Island Manufacturing

Supplier Scouting, Supply Chain Optimization Services for Manufacturing

There are many ways that Polaris MEP can help manufacturers rebuild or optimize their supply chain. A new resource is “Supplier Scouting,” a formal program which connects individual manufacturing businesses in Rhode Island to suppliers of parts and components across the United States.

Chris is the Rhode Island point person for Supplier Scouting. The process has three steps:

  1. A local manufacturer fills out a short, simple questionnaire. What type of material are they looking for? Any critical specs? Anticipated volume?
  2. Chris submits the request to the MEP National Network. Manufacturing experts consider which businesses in their states align with the need.
  3. A formal report is generated after five days. It features a list of vetted prospective suppliers with capacity to meet the requirements.

Mary notes that the same system benefits RI manufacturers looking to open up new markets, become part of new supply chains. If Polaris MEP is aware of your capabilities, Chris can submit your company as an option in response to future national requests.

How can Supplier Scouting help YOUR company?

Find out today!

Go to https://polarismep.org/supply-chain-scouting/ to fill out an inquiry or call Chris Cinieri at 401-270-8896.

Webinar Video:

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