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Editorial: Fortune favours the prepared

Supply chain disruptions have been manageable...so far.


October 31, 2020
By Patrick Flannery

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Patrick Flannery, Editor, Glass Canada

From the conversations I’ve had, it doesn’t sound like most fabricators and contractors have been too severely affected by supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19…yet. The Canada/U.S. border has remained open to commercial traffic continuously throughout the lockdown, and even offshore shipments were allowed to land once the health protocols were ironed out. Everything has been slower and required more organization but all-in-all it sounds like our shops have been able to get what they need. But rumblings of shortages and longer lead-times are growing.

It looks like the U.S. is not going to be out of the pandemic woods any time soon. You can hardly fault their determination to do business, but the uneven response to the pandemic has certainly prolonged the need for countermeasures while simultaneously not actually eliminating the hazard. If a big second wave, or a new administration, forces a more severe lockdown, we could be in trouble when trying to get components from the south when inventories held in Canada run dry. Doubly so if the resulting overall recession claims our suppliers and dealers.

Deloitte has some advice for how companies can prepare for supply chain disruptions. For starters, enhance focus on workforce planning. Your labour force is probably the most important part of your supply chain, and one that can obviously be disrupted if someone gets the virus in your company. Where would you go for replacements if key personnel suddenly weren’t available? One thing to keep in mind: unions have stables of trained glaziers available on short notice. Focus on Tier 1 supplier risk. While a manufacturer can often get various companies to distribute their goods, they have fewer options when it comes to the raw materials and basic components they need. If you see a threat to suppliers at that level, it’s time to plan for a disruption to availability of all the downstream products. Illuminate the extended supply network. You probably buy your most important components from the same few dealers. But is the same thing available from others? Now would be a good time to know. Understand and activate alternate sources of supply. Might be time to take that lunch with your supplier’s competition. Update inventory policy and planning parameters. Maybe the tax hit for keeping some more components and materials in storage is worth it these days. Enhance inbound materials visibility. You know it’s been ordered, but you probably don’t know if it’s actually coming until it arrives. Successful businesses want to know. Prepare for plant closures. Both yours and theirs. If the worst happens and a supply disruption forces suspension of business, you can mitigate the damage by having a plan in place. Focus on production scheduling agility. I think we can all see the benefit these days of being able to quickly adjust to changing circumstances and come up with new schedules, new methods and even new products on the fly. To be honest, this industry’s abilities in this regard have been surprising and impressive. Evaluate alternative outbound logistics options and secure capacity. What if your truck can’t get across the border? Or your workers can’t get on site? Or your salesmen can’t make calls? It could pay to cover those bases.

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