When the coronavirus first swept through China around the start of 2020, it shuttered many factories and shipping facilities in the Far East and, in many cases, crippled U.S. companies' supply chains. That led those businesses to reconsider many things about how they operate, including whether they should rely on a global supply chain at all. Now, more businesses are facing a kind of existential question: When the pandemic comes to an end, will we ever go back to previous norms?

The idea of having a global supply chain — which often requires interaction with potentially large numbers of partners to get everything you order from Points A and B to C, D, E and more — might now seem like a literal logistical nightmare. According to Supply Chain Digital, it's not out of the question to revert to old ways, and many companies already have, but the level of control at every step of the supply chain may need to increase dramatically.

It always helps to have backup plans.It always helps to have backup plans.

First things first, that will require digitization and automation of many processes that used to be handled manually, so that it's easier to share information between partners and track items as they cross borders and oceans, the report said. That also requires increased cooperation and different sourcing options, so that if partners in one part of the world cannot hold up their end of the bargain, for whatever reason, your business always has something to fall back on.

Plan for everything
While the novel coronavirus was a once-in-a-century event that provided a major shock to the system, there are all sorts of difficulties (big and small) that can crop up in even the simplest of processes, and those need to be accounted for, according to The Hackett Group. Together with your partners, as well as within your own organization, you need to sit down and think of all the potential contingencies that could arise over the course of years, and how you will respond if those incidents arise.

You will also need to understand the areas that will be your signals that something has gone awry in the first place, the report said. It's one thing to know that a problem has arisen; it's quite another to be able to figure out why, and revert to a Plan B as early as you possibly can.

Never settle
Finally, it's worth remembering that your supply chain (and the world) is ever-changing and even contingencies that have worked in the past might not cut the mustard when a new situation arises, according to Supply Chain Digest. For that reason, your approach needs to be more diversified — such as with regionalization — so that if you lose some options for a period of time, you always have somewhere else to pivot. And more to the point, you should have those contingencies tested as a just-in-case so you know they're as reliable as possible.

The more you can do to take a holistic look at how your supply chain operates and how your relationships with partners affect things, the better off your company will be when it comes to weathering any storm.

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