ALOM is a global leader in supply chain management serving as a strategic partner to our customers by expertly and seamlessly conducting their key business functions from manufacturing to marketing.
Preparing Supply Chains for the Unknown – from Survival to Thriving
By Hannah Kain, ALOM President and CEO
How do you prepare for the unknown? That’s a question many people have asked over the last six months as we realized that the world, the people and the governments, the businesses and the over-all community were unprepared for a global pandemic.
Risk managers have forever asked themselves this question: How do you identify the correct risk such that you can avoid or mitigate the risk? The answer is that you can never be entirely prepared for everything. Yet, over the last months we have seen some companies thrive while others struggled. The difference is not only which industry they were in, but also the level of thought and preparedness put into planning for risk events.
Here’s what I have seen from successful companies:
Their thought process is different. Because these companies have considered and rehearsed for risks, they have more redundancy and agility built into their DNA. They also have contingency plans at the ready. An example is that they have multiple ways of reaching all employees or specific segments of employees at home or at work. They know their suppliers well and have built in real-time monitoring and contingency solutions. They have cross-trained staff.
Like super-athletes, they conditioned themselves to be able to deal with difficulties and extreme events.
They are technology savvy. Their systems transitioned almost seamlessly to a work-from-home environment, and they maintained strong cybersecurity and ability to cope with the stress on their systems. Their systems provided transparency and visibility that allowed them to make fast and good decisions and to adjust to new conditions.
They have strong culture, alignment and focus. Some would call these traits “soft” management characteristics. Yet as companies got disjointed with most or all staff members working from home under the strain of uncertainty, these characteristics went from “soft” to “strong” and becoming the main differentiator between failing and successful companies.
Finally, they hire great people for each position. Nobody can fully prepare for risks and uncertainties. For that last 10% of surprises, you need top notch staff pulling out the exact right toolset with the experience and confidence that you would expect from a skilled surgeon. Again this year, three ALOM executives were recognized as Supply Chain Pros To Know. That’s the caliber of staff you want on your side when the supply chain needs to be rethought overnight and implemented next day. It also helps that true professionals take so much pride in their work that they would always give their best and never let customers or coworkers down.
Service levels dropped dramatically over the past five months as – for some reason – different organizations felt it was no longer necessary to answer the phone or respond to emails for days or weeks or seemingly months. I have heard about people being on hold for 12 hours, only to be disconnected. Throughout this challenging Covid-19 pandemic period, ALOM’s staff members refused to let service slip in any way. They pulled together, drawing on their preparedness planning, technology, knowledge, experience, and dedication to solve every new challenges they faced, and they succeeded in maintaining close to 100% on-time shipping, keeping inventory in stock and meeting our customer service goals every single day. Because of the built-in preparedness, they had the tools and the determination to slay the dragon.
Nobody knows where or when the next risk will come; which disaster strikes next; or even when the pandemic will be a thing of the past. Successful suppliers must have the characteristics, the thought process and the wherewithal that will make them able to survive the next shift.