Disruptions in the supply chain: what are the (security/other) problems, and where can we look for solutions?
Guest chair: Rinske Geerlings – 2019 OSPA Finalist, Founder and Principal Consultant at Business as Usual (Australia)
Zalina Jaflus – Consultant at Sterling and former Head of Risk & BCM at Malaysia Airports (Malaysia)
Chris Mahoney – Business Integration Practice Lead and Mining Supply Chain Partner at Bedrock (Australia)
Sicco Santema – Director at Scenter, and Professor of Supply Chain Management at Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
Hans van der Sluijs – Project Manager at Hutchinson Ports Rotterdam ECT (Netherlands)
Chris Mahoney noted that there has been an increasing focus on cyber security as efforts to integrate and optimise supply chains have increased automation and data interchange and therefore the associated cyber risks. This focus has been heightened due to the Covid-19 pandemic as more offending has moved online, raising concerns about supply chains becoming more vulnerable. At the same time IT teams have been dispersed and distracted from cyber security concerns while attending to enabling remote working. Thinking about how organisations may have to change as a result of the pandemic, Chris noted the need for organisations to think beyond their own operations, to also understand the threats to their suppliers and their customers to look at the issue holistically. Chris suggested an opportunity now exists for suppliers to differentiate themselves through their reliability and the strength of their business continuity planning.
Hans van der Sluijs talked about the disruptions he had observed to a container terminal in Rotterdam harbour as being threefold, any one of which can bring operations to a stand still; namely physical congestion from vehicle traffic, interruptions to the radio network, and severe weather conditions. Thinking about solutions Hans gives some interesting examples, including the introduction of redundant hardware allowing a back up to take over, should the primary network fail. Hans noted the importance of learning from mistakes and also sharing experiences with other organisations (even ‘competitors’) and where appropriate coming together to achieve solutions via a more powerful voice than a single organisation may hold.
Zalina Jaflus highlighted that a key challenge has been the prolonged nature of the disruption to supply chains caused by the current covid-19 pandemic. She suggested one of the biggest challenges has been for industries dependent on a just-in-time model which are particularly sensitive to unexpected changes in supply and demand. Finding alternative suppliers at short notice can be very costly. You will hear Zalina highlight that the supply chain depends on robust and meaningful business continuity plans that have appropriate policies and practices in place to support them; that involve external stakeholders to ensure that the whole supply chain is considered; and crucially that plans must be tested to ensure they are fit for purpose. Zalina also noted the need to embrace technology in findings solutions, and you will hear her make an interesting point about how the focus on budgets should shift from investing in physical buildings to network infrastructure as we adapt to the new normal.
Sicco Santema makes a notable point about how disruptions to the supply chain have resulted not just from the pandemic, but from the way organisations have responded to it. He cautions that withdrawing from collaborations with expert suppliers, and moving activities in-house without the same expertise can increase the risk, disruption and expense instead of reducing it. He suggests that customers as well as suppliers must be judged on their business continuity capabilities and advocated a change of mindset from focusing on your own element of the chain, to thinking collectively, recognising the dependence on others and building this in to resilience planning. Sicco considers the merit of depending on smaller networks. He also referred to TU Delft as a relevant information source for good practice.
Picking up on the discussion among the panel, guest chair Rinske Geerlings surmised that moving forward requesting a business continuity plan from a supplier may become the ‘new normal’. Rinske also reflected on the importance of ‘what if’ thinking citing our reliance on the internet, which itself is not immune from disruption, as a case in point.
10th September 2020