A good time to review processes
Identifying and addressing the vulnerabilities in your supply chain is an important first step. Whilst it’s good business sense not to rely on a sole supplier, dependencies can build up over time. Now may be a good time to consider broadening your options and, if you’re a business supplying other firms, they’re likely to be undertaking a similar process.
“Situations like this are a good opportunity to review your processes,” says Brian. “Big companies, who’ve perhaps taken for granted that goods can move quickly and easily around the world, will be looking at the resilience of those supply chains.
Opportunities for agile businesses
That could present opportunities for smaller businesses who can demonstrate their own resilience and responsiveness combined with an ability to understand and meet customer need. Beleaguered high street retailers in Birmingham, for example, took the opportunity to re-take market share from the large supermarkets when lockdown led customers to stockpile and shortages of key goods ensued. With supermarkets tied into supply contracts, more agile smaller grocers were able to quickly widen their supply base and source hard to come by goods to meet customer demand. So, while supermarkets ran out of toilet roll and fruit and vegetables, the smaller shops were often well-stocked.
“The ability to adapt very quickly to what’s happening can make a big difference,” agrees Brian. “It gives smaller businesses an advantage, in that the decision-making process is often less complex and change can be communicated and implemented more easily.”
Diversifying production and supply base
One of the success stories of the pandemic has been the ability of businesses to adapt and diversify into new product lines or services. Numerous businesses, those experiencing a drop in demand, those wishing to maintain operations (perhaps to avoid the cost of shutting down and then restarting machines) not classed as essential, or those keen to support the fight against COVID-19, shifted production – from hand sanitisers and PPE to ventilators.
For some businesses, it was a way of ensuring that an eventual return to normal would not just be possible but expedited. As well as highlighting the adaptability of staff and production lines, offering up the opportunity of new areas of growth through recovery, it prevented plant and machinery from being mothballed, retained key skills and diversified the supply chain to support a return to normality.