Avian flu may have fallen off the headlines, but the risk of a global pandemic hasn't diminished. As of July 2007, the confirmed human deaths resulting from H5N1 avian influenza has increased by 21 percent, compared with 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere say that the world is now closer to an influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred.
Should a pandemic strike, global supply chains could become completely paralyzed if they are not prepared. The HHS reports that some economists predict that a pandemic could produce an effect on the worldwide economy similar in depth and duration to that of an average postwar recession in the United States. Despite this, only 28 percent of companies feel they are prepared to face the business challenges of a pandemic, an AMR Research survey of 112 businesses in the manufacturing and services sectors indicates.
Preparing for pandemic risk requires a concerted effort across all facets of the business, spanning structural and IT infrastructure, employees, suppliers, and customers. Service and technology providers can be used in preparing for and mitigating the risk in the following ways:
• Have risk-focused consultants design a company-wide mitigation plan.
• Use network analysis systems to gauge supply chain vulnerabilities and pinpoint the potential fail points in companies' supply networks. These tools also can help companies develop multisourcing strategies and identify alternate transportation modes and redundant production capacity to avoid or delay business interruptions in the event of a pandemic.
• Use simulation tools to map the future network state in the event of a pandemic. For example, with these tools, companies can measure how and for how long they can satisfy their network demand using local suppliers or stockpiled inventory.
• Use sense and response tools to manage ongoing supply chain disruptions.
More on the recent survey regarding pandemic risk readiness and details on best practices to prepare, see "How Prepared Are Companies for a Pandemic?"
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