All posts by Jarrod McAdoo

How to Manage Supply Chain Risks From the Coronavirus Outbreak

Are you being proactive in managing risks to your business from the coronavirus?

supply chain risks


The death toll from the coronavirus has reached more than 2,800 and the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 80,000. 

Beyond the enormous human toll, the effects of the coronavirus and the efforts to control its spread are being felt throughout the world’s supply chains. 

Factories in China are facing staff shortages. Or they are electing to remain closed to protect their workforce. Airlines have suspended flights to China. 

However, there is an indirect result of the necessary steps being taken to contain the outbreak. Restrictions and regulations designed to control the spread of the virus could have an adverse impact on cargo leaving and entering ports all over the world. 

Delayed Effects

And while some of the impacts have been immediate, other latent effects will not be felt for months.

This will hit:

  • manufacturers and retailers who rely on affected products and labour
  • logistics haulers expecting to transport the material
  • and, ultimately, the end consumers.

This crisis demonstrates the increasing complexity – and global nature – of supply chains and the imperative need to manage risk within this complex supply chain. 

Compare the current outbreak with that of SARS in 2003. It is striking to see how quickly coronavirus has eclipsed SARS in the number of infections. It took the coronavirus only 2 months to infect 75 per cent of the total number infected by SARS over a 9-month period. 

The crisis also shows how much China has developed in terms of population and establishing itself as a key cog in the world’s economy.

There is a danger of coronavirus becoming a major global issue if not controlled closely. So, what can organisations do to prepare themselves for these impacts?

Many leading organisations have developed programmes to manage and deal with supply chain disruption. But this situation is a unique challenge for even those organisations with advanced risk management programmes. 

Regardless of the level of sophistication in an organisation’s risk programme, all organisations can take steps to monitor their supply chain. This will help them to for the impacts of the epidemic.

3 Key Steps to Manage Risk

1. Know where your supply chain is located

Identify those countries that are currently at high risk and map your supply chain against these affected areas. This mapping should include evaluating key tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers as well as key logistics hubs that could be impacted.

2. Continuously monitor changes

Understand that the crisis is still unfolding and the true impacts from a supply chain disruption perspective may not reveal themselves for months. Establish a process to monitor other regions outside the infected areas that could be impacted.

Are ports outside the infected areas being impacted through disruption or through new regulations to protect against transmission of the virus? Are suppliers struggling financially without access to the Chinese markets, jeopardizing their viability?

3. Diversify the supply base

Like a financial portfolio, look for opportunities to rebalance and diversify the supply base to minimize the risk and take actions to qualify these suppliers in the event they are needed.

Need for Proactive Risk Management

This crisis underscores the need for organizations to establish and maintain effective proactive risk management programmes for their supply chain. 

It is impossible for organisations to anticipate these types of outbreaks. But an effective risk management programme, complete with processes, tools and data can lessen the impact. And the time it takes an organisation to recover.

Learn more about the challenges and steps necessary to build an effective and proactive Supplier Risk Management programme in this research “Integrated Risk Management: A Playbook for Procurement” from The Hackett Group.