The supply chain is one of the few possibilities left for a company to be truly competitive. Technology can be copied rapidly and Internet has leveled the playing field for advertising and marketing. However, getting customer satisfaction and loyalty right through supply chain optimisation still offers considerable possibility for differentiation. That opportunity also comes with significant business continuity challenges. Supply chains are complex assemblies of many moving parts that require skill and good judgment to extract the best performance. In many cases, it also only takes one part to break for the whole chain to stop. How can better business continuity and resilience be achieved?

A first step to improved business continuity is better supply chain visibility. But organisations need to know more than just what is going on in their own supply chain operations such as warehousing, production, sales and logistics. They also need to know about the resilience of their upstream suppliers and their downstream service providers. If you can’t get the raw materials you need or if you can’t get your finished goods delivered to points of sale, your business will still suffer. It’s important to understand that your weakest link may be completely outside your own organisation.

As supply chain thinking continues to evolve, so do opportunities for improving business continuity. One idea is to increase the modularity of the supply chain and the possibility to use ‘commodity’ resources that can be swapped in and out according to requirements. That won’t stop breakages or interruptions, but can shorten them and make it easier for an enterprise to cover all the bases. Another possibility is to replicate supply chains to have one per business unit, rather than just one for the whole company. With proper overall resilience built-in, an outage in one supply chain should not affect the operation of the others, and the enterprise as a whole becomes more robust.