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Different supply chains respond to disasters in different ways. Some, like utilities (think telecom or power providers), gear up and deploy assets to affected areas so that they can ramp up quickly to begin recovery efforts. Others shift into lockdown mode, securing assets and moving people, resources and vehicles out of harm’s way.

Whether your disaster response plan takes you into the affected area or away from it, there are five precautions every supply chain manager should take to weather virtually any emergency situation:

  1. Plan: identify and assess all potential risks ahead of time. Have a documented business continuity/contingency plan in place and procedures that enable your supply chain to swing into action before, during and after the event. Understand where your supply chain begins and ends – from the point of origin to the end consumer and all of the components and partners that keep it running smoothly. Know who to call and how to protect your people and assets.
  2. Secure assets: this includes all nodes in your supply chain: production facilities, distribution centers, your fleet, terminals, suppliers and stores. In short, anything that could be sidelined by a disaster. Make sure you have the products and supplies you need when the disaster is over. If you’re a hospital, this might mean water, backup power and medical supplies. If you’re a power provider, it might mean staging sites, extra trucks, drivers and techs to go out and restore power. Move equipment indoors or to higher ground if you’re in a flood-prone area.
  3. Collaborate: work closely with third-party suppliers, key business partners, service providers and employees to develop and execute a strategy. If you have strong relationships in place, you’re in a better position to get the resources you need when disaster strikes. If one supplier is knocked out of commission, you’ll have another to rely on. Set up a crisis team and communications and information channels and define roles and responsibilities so everyone knows how to respond.
  4. Have alternatives: if your infrastructure or transportation modes are affected, have other options in place, whether it’s backup power, backup, water supplies, vehicles, drivers, alternate sites, routes or transportation modes or a redundant/backup IT infrastructure.
  5. Track and monitor: keep an eye on the impending crisis and make sure you have visibility into other threats that could disrupt your supply chain. In addition to natural disasters, sources of problems run the gamut from terrorism and geo-political turmoil to changes in political and regulatory environments, labor rates, vendor capacity limitations, fuel volatility or work stoppages.

The secret to success in all cases is to be prepared before disaster strikes. Protect your supply chain and your business from crippling standstills or losses by taking steps now to have a supply chain disaster preparedness plan in place.

Written by Glenn Stept. Mr. Stept is a group manager with Ryder Dedicated™, with more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain and logistics industry. Throughout his career at Ryder, Mr. Stept has implemented, operated and supported numerous supply chain operations for customers across a variety of industry segments.