After years of disruption, few project management teams expect pandemic-era supply chain issues to ease any time soon. Instead, savvy groups are taking a fresh look at where risks exist in today’s supply chain climate and updating their strategies to identify and remediate possible perils.
If you’re seeking new ways to deal with what are becoming old problems, consider these tips to help adjust how you manage supply chain risks.
Geopolitical risks have long been a focus in project planning and execution, but the sphere affected by those issues is growing and organizational attention paid to environmental and related factors is also on the rise. Regions and countries thought to be completely stable are experiencing upheaval, and though the origin of your project’s raw materials may not have been a primary sticking point in the past, it’s possible it could now create unexpected problems for your team. In today’s highly charged—and swiftly changing—global climate, you need to be hyper aware of elements such as where your suppliers are located, where materials are sourced, and how they’re procured and processed.
There are different ways to deal with these risks depending on the details of your project. Some teams may choose to source alternate providers to ensure their supply chain doesn’t include labor or materials from contested regions. It might also be wise to find different vendors if your supplies are at risk of delays due to shipping embargoes or other transportation obstacles. Even if your current provider relationships don’t present immediate risks, you may consider investing additional time into confirming that the materials you normally purchase continue to be sourced ethically.
Workforce risks are also evolving, and in some cases putting significant pressure on historically reliable supply chains. Turnaround times for procurement and shipping are in flux, creating challenges for project teams. A supplier that normally sources and delivers products in a few months may now be more than a year out, simply because they don’t have enough staff to move through the process as quickly as they once did.
Your risk mitigation strategy may include increasing your project’s shipping budget in case it becomes necessary to expedite orders that have fallen behind schedule. Understanding where options exist in the logistics chain could also help you avoid delays and other risks. Your standard method of shipping may need to be swapped out for a different mode or carrier to keep things on track. Spreading your orders out across multiple vendors could also insulate you from acute workforce fluctuations.
Supplier risks are rising as manufacturers and vendors work to implement their own measures to prevent upstream supply chain problems from affecting their customers. One risk area that sometimes flies under the radar is the potential for long-standing manufacturing partners to change up their materials, production processes, manufacturing cycle timelines, or shipping protocols without notifying customers. Unless you’re aware of these updates, the resources intended to support your project could arrive out of spec or require additional work to validate or install.
Providing comprehensive specification documents during the order process can help avoid unwelcome surprises. Review your list of requirements and fill out any additional elements that may no longer be considered standard for the items you intend to procure. Be clear with vendors when it comes to shipping details—everything from expectations around refrigeration to acceptable durations of the in-transit phase—so they can help to flag any procedure changes that may conflict with your requirements. And if you’re operating under regulatory or compliance frameworks, be sure to let your suppliers know up front to reduce the risk of noncompliance.