Over the course of the past two years, most challenges to the global economy have been blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it’s been the root of many problems that continue to affect the world at large, the less-considered culprit is climate change.
Each year seems to bring increasingly worse weather and natural disasters that send global supply chains reeling. With shortages and disruptions still lingering from the pandemic, extreme weather only exacerbates the gaps and wounds that businesses are trying to recover from.
Businesses are constantly at the mercy of the storms, fires and extreme temperatures that have been manifesting with greater severity at faster rates. In order to protect supply chains, more direct action needs to be taken.
Carbon footprints, record-breaking weather and climate change can be both scientific by nature and political by impact. But the connection to the world’s supply and demand economy isn’t always an obvious one.
Nevertheless, the effects of climate change disrupt and delay deliveries, worsen inventory shortages and drive higher prices for businesses. A freeze in Texas caused a massive energy blackout, exacerbating the semiconductor shortage and forcing railroad closures. Heavy rainfall and flooding caused shipping delays in Europe’s waterways. A drought in southwestern China caused a dramatic reduction of hydropower and mandatory power cuts for factories, leading to shortages of parts for electronics, autos and other goods. And the threat of rising sea levels has ports and other supply infrastructure leaders all over the world concerned.
There are, however, certain precautions and strategies that businesses can put into place to better protect themselves from volatility caused by climate change. Organizations can begin injecting more stability and strength into their supply chains with the help of digitization and automation.
In times of crisis or chaos, the slow and disorganized nature of manual processes can make a bad situation worse. Paper-based work, Excel spreadsheets and time-intensive data entry will slow down a team in a high-stakes situation where efficiency and the ability to pivot quickly is essential. This is especially true in the back office, where invoices and other important documents can become stagnant or clogged. Suppliers and their customers need their supply chain operations to operate smoothly in order for them to recover from a disruption caused by climate change.
Technology tools can assist with streamlining operations, digitizing documents for better storage and sharing, opening up visibility and mitigating risk. Many time-consuming manual processes can be turned into automated workflows, freeing up manpower for higher-value-add jobs, and cutting down on time and cost. What’s more, streamlined processes lead to better visibility to insurance providers, risk-management capabilities, and position management.
Digitization leads to a business having a more “hands-on-deck” approach to sudden disruptions, while also setting itself up for a more efficient means of getting back “onboard” once the climate challenge has passed. Less time needs to be spent on getting certain processes running again, since the data and documents have been securely filed, and are probably still running, through the technology platform.
The transition to a more digitized operation not only supports the supply chain, but also contributes toward efforts at curtailing climate change. Paper-dependency drops exponentially when a company adopts digitization practices. Most processes can be handled digitally through new tech, allowing the amount of waste created to decrease as well. In combination with any other ESG initiatives the business may have, mitigating negative environmental impact becomes just that much easier.
It's hard to predict when or how climate change will continue to disrupt supply chains, but businesses can start preparing how they will weather them now. While a power failure may be out of one’s control, bolstering the supply chain from end to end is well within any company’s ability. It’s only a matter of investing in the right tech for the job.
Jim Toffey is chief executive officer of LiquidX.
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