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Crisis Communication in the Age of the Global Supply Chain

Crisis Communication in the Age of the Global Supply Chain

Compared to today, solving supply chain problems used to be easy. Early supply chains were localized. They usually involved hundreds or thousands of workers at one factory or site, where disruptions could be pinpointed and contained. Times have changed for the manufacturing industry, where supply chains now stretch across several countries.

No longer can an executive make a phone call to a manager on the floor and gain complete visibility into a problematic situation. To communicate during crisis events, supply chain managers need end-to-end visibility into raw materials, customers, supplier relationships, and community impact across a wide swathe of geographies.

For example, how does a factory manager communicate and problem solve when their inventory gets derailed due to a fire or a flood in East Asia? To understand the impact of a crisis and strategize an appropriate response, there’s a lot to consider. How do you solve for the complexities of the global supply chain when it comes to crisis communication?

Communication in the Modern Supply Chain

Earthquakes, floods, and civil unrest are just a few of the scenarios that can disrupt a global supply chain at several access points. Problem-solving is more comprehensive, but so are the problems. Here’s how crisis communication has changed:

  • Increased Automation - Machines are taking on more of the process. Sometimes knowing where a problem originates and what’s causing it is either delayed or a guessing game
  • A Fragmented Workforce - A team isn’t confined to one place, which means that crisis communications may be taking place across time zones or difficult geographical conditions
  • International, Piecemeal Production - Components of a product are now produced all over the world, which means that communications may be taking place in several languages, including all of the shorthand, slang, and acronyms that entails
  • Financial Disparities - Wages and labor abroad is often cheaper than in western countries, which means that budgets for crisis communication can differ across the supply chain
  • Regulatory Disparities - Regulatory environments differ from country to country, which means the prioritization of crisis communication is often not standardized across a supply chain

Problems Crisis Communications Must Solve

Given the complexity today in manufacturing, crisis communication now has to solve a whole host of problems. To avoid mass panic and delays, your crisis communication plan and system should be able to account for the following:

  • Location Affected - Were all plants and sites impacted? What about the surrounding communities? To accurately communicate about solving a crisis, all locations need to be looped in and able to send messages
  • Operations Affected - Which processes have been disrupted, and which components of the supply chain are unavailable? Management will need to assess for this and then strategize about alternative locations that might bridge the supply chain during the crisis
  • Redundancies and Backups - Is data backed up, and are there failsafe processes in place? Management must alert all relevant parties to gain visibility into which “Plan Bs” are initiated
  • Downstream Impact - Will there be a domino effect to the crisis, or is it contained? The supply chain has many interlocking dependencies, and management needs to communicate about where those dependencies are interrupted
  • Customer Impact - Which customers are impacted? All customers should receive streamlined, consistent information, so communications will need to account for organizational messaging across the supply chain
  • Revenue Impact - If the financial impact is too large, does a reorganization or refund need to take place, and are certain contracts void? Communications will need to be informed by access to contracts, budget information, and organizational accounting
  • Reputational Impact - Is there media involvement, or have the perception of any stakeholders been negatively impacted? Spokespeople and executives will need to communicate in a way that does not create further confusion or hostility
  • Business Continuity - Managers need to take quick action to get the organization up and running again, and that means communicating as efficiently as possible

The global supply chain means that crisis communication needs to reach a whole new level of maturity. Communications now involve technology, mapping, translations and templates, and cloud-based data considerations. A resilient supply chain requires a unified, tech-enabled crisis communication platform.

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