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From Supply Chain Emergencies to Supply Chain Resiliency

With the turmoil of the last few years, companies in every link of the supply chain went into crisis mode. Handling emergencies became modus operandi, and long-term strategies were forced onto the back burner. Although COVID-19 persists, labor shortages continue, and global inflation affects the movement of goods, it’s possible to go beyond a series of quick fixes to a more focused approach to building supply chain resiliency. 

Arguably, there have been more external pressures on the supply chain in the past two years than in any other modern era timeframe– a global pandemic, a war in a critical trade route, and an unprecedented rate of turnover in the labor markets (i.e., The Great Resignation), to name a few. These external factors exposed cracks and weaknesses across the supply chain. There will certainly be less-than-ideal circumstances or unexpected outside forces impacting logistics in the future. Analyzing and addressing the exposed weaknesses now can help “future-proof” the supply chain. This is the very definition of supply chain resiliency. 

SWOT – A Classic Solution to Modern Dilemmas 

The classic SWOT assessment– Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – offers a time-tested solution to modern concerns. Opportunities and Threats represent external forces, and Strengths and Weaknesses represent internal factors. Since 2019 or so, external forces have consumed nearly all of the focus and attention on the supply chain, but internal factors are where companies have the most control. 

Take the current challenge of labor shortages. The threat is lack of labor, which can impede the flow of raw materials, reduce factory output, and slow delivery schedules. Still, the weakness in lack of labor could be outdated hiring approaches, inadequate pay/benefits, or misalignment in values. By more closely assessing weaknesses, it’s possible to turn them into strengths. 

From External Threat to Internal Strength 

“The Great Resignation” has multiple sub-plots. Some workers resigned because they were able to get better offers elsewhere. Some left the workforce altogether. Many others have become part of the “The Great Reflection” – a large swath of workers seeking jobs with companies they believe in. In one study by Blue Beyond Consulting, three out of four workers said they would not take a new job if their personal values and the company’s values were misaligned. And more than half of participants said they’d leave their current job over a values misalignment. 

Of course, pay, benefits, and the work environment still drive employment decisions. But the labor shortage only becomes exacerbated if companies miss the opportunity to attract and retain value-driven employees. 

At Gebrüder Weiss, we’ve found that business goals, brand mission, and employee values are intricately connected.  For example, one of our business goals is zero emissions, which is part of our brand mission for a sustainable future, which attracts employees with similar values. To put this all into practice, we have a Zero Emissions program so our customers can offset their carbon footprint, and we’ve launched a Cycling Around the World initiative, inviting people to get on the bike and log their cycled kilometers, with the goal of reaching 40,075 – one time around the globe. These efforts benefit the “Corporate Forest” in Togo, West Africa (in cooperation with our partner natureOffice), with one tree planted for every 40 kilometers cycled. 

As a global transport and logistics company, we’ve seen our share of supply chain challenges up close. Values alignment is not a panacea and there are other labor shortage issues to manage. Still, it’s an example of turning an external threat into a potential strength that can help strengthen the supply chain over time. 

 Looking Ahead 

Consumer expectations are shifting, and “unexpected events” no longer qualifies as an acceptable reason for breakages in distribution (even if it continues to be relatively true). The more time passes, the more consumers expect resolutions to supply chain challenges. 

Factors driving The Great Resignation are likely permanent shifts rather than temporary whims. Companies who can succeed at attracting and retaining talent will continue to gain a competitive edge. 

While we’ll all continue to face daily challenges, incorporating a long-term approach can help us stay resilient across the supply chain, regardless of what the future holds.  

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