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Business Continuity

Retail Resilience – Strengthen Your Supply Chain

16th April 2013

In recent years retailers have gone through a supply chain revolution, greatly reducing inventories and outsourcing to lower-cost regions with tremendous benefits. But these changes have made supply chains leaner, more complex and much more vulnerable. It’s obvious that today’s interconnected supply chains are simply no longer robust enough to cope with even small hiccups – businesses need to bring the resilience back.

The case for stronger supply chains was demonstrated in March 2011 when earthquakes and tsunamis crippled Japan, leaving the automotive industry in tatters. And this was by no means a unique event: the Thai floods, L’Aquila earthquake and Hurricane Sandy all served to further expose the fragility of many global supply chains.

Businesses are only too well aware of the precarious situation in which they find themselves. According to our own research, 40% of directors believe that allowing no room for error has made them more vulnerable to disruption.

So how can retailers strengthen their supply chain? There are four key steps which can ensure true supply chain resilience:

  • Take standards seriously – despite the existence of specific supply chain standards such as ISO 28002:2011 and ISO 22301 [BS 25999], very few organisations have complete visibility of their supply chain’s levels of resilience. Businesses need to carefully evaluate which organisations they bring into their supply chains, prioritising those that have achieved the relevant standards.
  • Nip problems in the bud – although it’s impossible to completely avoid ‘unforeseeable’ issues the use of ‘horizon scanning’ technology can help pinpoint both real and potential risks.
  • Conduct regular risk assessments risk assessment is a continuous process that should occur not only before you contract with your suppliers but throughout the lifecycle of the contract – as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect!
  • Understand how the market can impact your supply chain – It’s vital to keep a watchful eye on stock levels, those of both your own business and your suppliers. Full visibility helps ensure that your business is always able to meet customer demand.

Encouragingly, retailers and businesses are aware of potential issues and have begun to act accordingly. Those which have invested in resilience measures have seen marked improvements in productivity, customer satisfaction and competitiveness. Customers today expect to be able to do business with organisations whenever they want and failure to provide services is viewed as unacceptable. Supply chain resilience can directly affect business revenues – don’t be let down by weak links.


An article on this subject was published in Retail Digital on 16/04/13: