Debbie Altham, senior director of the technology team with Sikich LLP, reveals the findings of a new survey of manufacturers and their supply chains, conducted by the firm in partnership with Industry Week.
The report surveyed more than 130 manufacturing leaders across multiple industries, including automotive, telecom, consumer goods, aerospace, industrial, chemicals and healthcare. A full 93% said they experienced supply chain challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And 76% said it had exposed gaps or weaknesses in their supply chains.
The most serious issue was an inability to source raw materials in support of manufacturing, Altham says. In addition, respondents reported difficulties in shipping product, along with increasing freight costs. The impact “came quite slowly,” Altham says, “later in the pandemic than maybe we would have thought.”
In response to these disruptions, manufacturers are asking their suppliers to provide greater visibility of goods and products upstream, across multiple tiers. Only then can they make commitments on orders to customers. But achieving visibility is often just as difficult within the walls of manufacturing organizations as it is with outside partners.
Nearly half of the respondents said they are diversifying their supply chains to minimize the risk of single or limited sourcing situations. Others are looking to gain more control by bringing manufacturing in house, or at least closer to their end markets.
Technology is playing a key role in shoring up weak or broken supply chains. Altham sees a strong trend toward upgrading enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, at a pace she likens to the period leading up to the Y2K transition. Cloud technology is also helping to install systems that improve visibility across the supply chain. But the payback on such investments must be far faster than in the past.
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