Supply Chain Enabled

Managing through supply chain challenges

Published: March 2, 2021
Author: Lorcan Sheehan

Managing through supply chain challenges

As the performance of vaccine supply chains receives global political attention, many of us recognise the pressures to perform in mission-critical supply chain situations.

The heroic efforts to develop and bring to market vaccines in less than a year can be forgotten if the final production and distribution plans fall short of commitments.

We do not pretend to have the solutions to the current problems and will not comment on any individual company, but as veterans of many past supply chain challenges on a different scale, there are some principles that have served us well;

  • Leaders need to create space to recover. The pressure on supply chain teams ramps significantly when supply chain objectives are not being met.  An environment is needed where teams are given clarity on priorities and the space to execute against them.
  • Narrow the focus to the data elements that are critical, and assemble a reliable baseline of performance that can be achieved
  • Streamline communications channels to make information available more quickly, and be prepared to make fast decisions with imperfect data
  • Communicate clearly and frequently with customers.  Let them know what is happening, the actions being taken, and set expectations of what can be achieved. Work with them on their priorities within what can be delivered.
  • Make commitments that you can stand over and improve on as the recovery progresses. This may mean communicating bad news early, but you quickly re-build confidence as you show customers that you meet these commitments and improve as the recovery takes effect.
  • Delay the witch hunt. The focus needs to be on recovery rather than attributing blame. There will be time for learnings and accountability after the recovery progresses.
  • Leadership at a customer level can accelerate the recovery by simplifying requirements in the short term and being clear on priorities

Most supply chain teams will face supply chain challenges during their careers. It is how they react, recover and learn from these challenges that distinguishes the great supply chain teams.

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