How can an increasingly interconnected world manage supply chains when a potentially deadly virus threatens to transfer itself across the planet via those very links?
A number of experts have been shedding more light on how the coronavirus, believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, is impacting companies reliant on global supply networks.
The Wall Street Journal recently captured the scale of the problem with the headline ‘Coronavirus Closes China to the World, Straining Global Economy’.
The piece underscored how the virus is hitting multiple aspects of commerce and trade in a raft of reactions to its outbreak, including travel restrictions into and out of China, shuttered manufacturing plants, a plunge in global oil prices, and a significant drop-off in imports bound for China.
Supply Chain Management Review journalist Rosemary Coates urges affected businesses to adopt the principle of “you can never have enough back-up plans”.
Agile supply relationship management is clearly becoming a pressing issue, as indeed is imaginative flexibility in strategic sourcing.
Global trade intelligence researcher Chris Rogers, meanwhile, has stated that the impact on supply chains will be a function of the length of time that businesses stay closed, the extent of the impact on downstream supply chains, and the amount of precautionary measures that are taken by businesses, including logistics companies.
While it’s extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to make accurate predictions about how this viral outbreak will pan out at this early stage, possibilities that appear more likely include restrictions on shipping to and from Wuhan and its surrounding region. Although, hopefully, this will be for a matter of days to permit inspections rather than indefinite bans.
While events of this nature are clearly challenging and stressful, especially perhaps for procurement professionals charged with supply chain responsibilities, the likelihood is that today’s supply networks can adapt to meet the challenges and keep economies and freight flows moving with the minimum of disruption.