APU Business Original

Risk Management: How Supply Chain Managers Can Save Time

Risk management assesses and mitigates potential risks that could affect an organization or project. It involves analyzing uncertainties and making informed decisions to minimize adverse outcomes and maximize opportunities. Risk management also aims to proactively address risks to protect an organization’s assets, reputation and stakeholders.

The 6 Steps of the Risk Management Process

The risk management process typically involves multiple steps. For instance, risk identification, assessment, analysis, response, monitoring and control, and communication are all part of the risk management process.

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Risk Identification

Risk identification involves documenting any potential risks that could impact the organization or project. This first step involves considering internal and external factors, such as financial, operational, market, regulatory, and technological risks.

Risk Assessment

This second step involves evaluating identified risks, based on their likelihood of occurring and the potential impact they could have on an organization. This assessment helps supply chain managers to prioritize those risks and allocate appropriate resources. Often, a risk matrix can be used by supply chain managers to determine if the risks are high, medium or low.

Risk Analysis

The third step is analyzing each risk’s characteristics, including its causes, consequences and potential interactions with other risks. This step provides a deeper understanding of risks and helps supply chain managers to develop effective risk response strategies. In many cases, supply chain managers will consider contingency actions if the risk occurs.

Risk Response

Supply chain managers create response strategies and action plans to mitigate identified risks, which is the fourth step in the risk management process. Response strategies can include risk avoidance, risk reduction, risk transfer, risk acceptance or a combination of these approaches.

Remember that there is no way to completely eliminate all risks in almost all cases. However, supply chain managers can make those risks so low that they can be safely ignored.

Risk Monitoring and Control

Fifth, supply chain managers will monitor identified risks, evaluate the effectiveness of risk response measures and implement necessary adjustments. Regular monitoring by supply chain managers helps to ensure that risks are managed appropriately and new risks are identified promptly. A risk matrix should be re-examined periodically, as the likelihood of risks change over time.

Risk Communication

Finally, supply chain managers must communicate risk-related information to relevant stakeholders, including management, employees, shareholders, customers and regulatory authorities. Effective communication helps create awareness, understanding and support for risk management initiatives. Keeping everyone informed will avoid costly mistakes and the blame that arises when a client complains, “No one told me about this.”

Why Is Risk Management So Important for an Organization?

Risk management is crucial for organizations for several reasons. The three most important reasons are the protection of the organization’s reputation, the protection of assets and competitive advantage.

Preservation of Company Reputation

An organization’s reputation is everything. Anyone telling you otherwise is working on a sales pitch.

In my industry, I know the good, the bad and the ugly individuals. News about unethical behavior and poor performance travels faster than the speed of light.

Reputation is a valuable, intangible asset for any organization. Inadequate risk management can lead to incidents that damage reputation, such as:

  • Product recalls
  • Safety breaches
  • Environmental disasters
  • Ethical violations

Effective risk management demonstrates an organization’s commitment to protecting its stakeholders’ interests. By proactively managing risks, organizations can minimize the likelihood of reputation-harming incidents and protect their brand value.

Protection of Assets

Effective risk management helps protect an organization’s assets, including its financial resources, physical infrastructure, intellectual property and human capital. By identifying and mitigating risks, supply chain managers can reduce the likelihood of financial losses, property damage, theft, fraud, or other adverse events that could harm company resources.

For instance, risks such as natural disasters, cyber attacks, supply chain disruptions or pandemics can significantly impact an organization’s ability to operate. Effective risk management helps organizations develop contingency plans, business continuity strategies, and disaster recovery procedures to minimize the impact of such events and ensure the continuity of operations.

Competitive Advantage

Organizations with effective risk management gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. They can:

  • Respond swiftly to emerging threats
  • Adapt to changing market conditions
  • Seize opportunities
  • Make informed decisions

Effective risk management demonstrates good governance and resilience. Supply chain managers should also have the ability to navigate uncertainties, which can enhance an organization’s reputation and attractiveness to customers, investors, and partners.

Furthermore, risk management ensures that organizations address compliance risks. That strategy will reduce the likelihood of non-compliance and its associated consequences.

Risk Management Strategies for Supply Chain Managers

Supply chain managers face various problems that affect their operations, including:

  • Disruptions in logistics
  • Supplier failures
  • Demand fluctuations
  • Geopolitical factors
  • Natural disasters
  • Cybersecurity threats

However, implementing effective risk management strategies can help supply chain managers mitigate these risks and maintain a resilient, efficient supply chain. Here are some key risk management strategies for supply chain managers.

Risk Assessment and Mapping

Supply chain managers should first conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential risks and their impact on organizational operations. To understand vulnerabilities and dependencies, it will be necessary to map out the entire supply chain network, including suppliers, transportation routes, and critical nodes.

Supply chain managers should also understand where necessary parts are coming from to evaluate risks due to global events. At one point, I worked at a company with several key suppliers in Japan. When Japan experienced a damaging earthquake, having a contingency plan to find critical spare parts elsewhere became essential to business continuity.

Diversification of Suppliers in Risk Management

Relying heavily on a single supplier can be risky. Supply chain managers should engage with multiple local and global suppliers to diversify the supply base. This strategy reduces the impact of supplier failures, geopolitical risks and disruptions.

For instance, I regularly engaged with multiple freight forwarding organizations to keep several of them familiar with my company’s requirements, which allowed my company to seamlessly change from one supplier to another when necessary.

In addition, some companies use the 80/20 strategy. All critical supplies would be split between two suppliers. One would get 80% of the business, and the other would get 20%.

That way, if one company had supply issues, it was much easier to increase production with a supplier already familiar with the company’s needs. Ultimately, that strategy was easier than going to the marketplace to quickly find a supplier to fill the gap.

Supplier Evaluation and Monitoring

Supply chain managers should implement robust supplier evaluation processes to assess their financial stability, quality control systems, capacity and reliability. Also, supply chain managers should regularly monitor supplier performance and maintain open lines of communication to promptly address any emerging issues.

Ideally, supply chain managers should also listen to what is happening in the market. When a company is having difficulty, people in the same industry often hear that news.

Supply chain managers should listen to the market and ask difficult questions to suppliers when necessary. If supplies do not give satisfactory answers, then supply chain managers should start looking for alternatives.

Contingency Planning

To address potential disruptions, supply chain managers should develop contingency plans. They should identify alternative suppliers, transportation modes and backup inventory locations to minimize the impact of disruptions.

Supply chain managers should also establish clear protocols and communication channels to activate contingency plans when necessary. For instance, some organizations do not allow all materials to sail on the same vessel. Keeping shipments separate can avoid a massive catastrophe.

Supply chain managers should also avoid any single point of failure and consider other options. Even if those other options might be more costly, it is better for a company to recover from a 50% loss than a 100% loss.

Related: Effective Leaders: Innate Traits and Learned Behaviors

Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management

Accurate demand forecasting enables supply chain managers to avoid stockouts or excess inventory, which can impact the supply chain. Supply chain managers can utilize advanced forecasting techniques, collaborate closely with customers, and leverage data analytics to optimize inventory levels and mitigate demand-related risks.

It’s also useful to remember that the past does not always dictate the future. I worked in a company where they had a lot of different-colored fabrics. The company landed a huge new customer one day, but the company wanted to utilize the lowest-usage fabric.

The first order from the customer wiped out the stock of this material, and the factory took forever to make more. This material shortage caused delays and disruptions that could have been avoided with an early discussion about the use of this material.

Demand forecasting and inventory management are only as good as the information provided to supply chain managers. In other words: no information, no inventory.

Related: Project Management and Using SCREEN to Implement Changes

Supply Chain Resilience and Redundancy in Risk Management

Supply chain managers can build resilience in the supply chain by integrating redundancy of suppliers and systems to improve flexibility. For example, one should always have multiple suppliers for any critical items or parts. In addition, all companies should have a backup system (even if manual) documented so if the primary system goes down, the company can continue to operate.

In addition, organizations should foster strong relationships and collaboration with key stakeholders, including suppliers, customers, logistics providers, and industry peers. That strategy enables an organization to continue to improve and to understand how redundancies might impact everyone in the supply chain.

Supply chain resilience includes maintaining safety stock, redundant production capacities, backup systems and alternate sourcing options. Redundancy mitigates the risks associated with disruptions and ensures continuity of operations.

Furthermore, supply chain managers should make sure to have robust cybersecurity measures to protect supply chain data and systems from cyber threats. They should regularly update security protocols, conduct audits and train employees to ensure sufficient data protection across the supply chain.

Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation

Supply chain managers should establish a system for monitoring and evaluating risks and risk mitigation strategies. They can regularly review and update risk assessments, contingency plans, and performance metrics to adapt to evolving threats and improve the effectiveness of their risk management.

Insurance and Risk Transfer

To protect the company, supply chain managers should evaluate the potential benefits of insurance coverage and risk transfer mechanisms for specific risks. They can consult with insurance experts to understand available options and determine the most suitable coverage for the organization’s risk profile. Supply chain managers should also understand international trade delivery terms (incoterms) to ensure they have the proper insurance coverage for all shipments.

How Can Supply Chain Managers Save Time in Risk Management?

After supply chain managers understand risk management, they can focus on using strategies that do not take much time or training. While risk management requires careful consideration and planning, some strategies can be implemented quickly and efficiently. Here are a few risk management strategies that don’t require an extensive time investment.

Using Standardized Risk Template for Risk Management

Supply chain managers can develop standardized risk assessment templates or forms that company employees can use to identify and document risks. These templates can guide supply chain managers in considering common risk categories and will provide a structured approach to risk identification. Employees can then fill out these templates without extensive training in risk management methods.

Creating Risk Mitigation Checklists

To aid other employees, supply chain managers should create simple checklists or guidelines for common risk mitigation strategies. These documents can provide employees with quick reference materials that outline the basic steps to mitigate identified risks. By following these checklists, employees can implement risk mitigation measures without extensive training on risk management techniques.

Standardizing Risk Reporting Procedures to Improve Risk Management

Supply chain managers can establish clear and simple procedures for reporting risks or near-miss incidents. Ideally, all employees should know how to promptly report potential risks or incidents, including what relevant information to provide. This reporting can be performed through email, intranet portals or easily accessible forms with guidelines.

Using Quick Wins

Supply chain managers should identify and implement low-cost, straightforward risk mitigation measures that can be executed quickly. These quick wins can provide immediate risk reduction and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to managing risks.

Often, quick wins can be made through collaboration. Supply chain managers should engage in open discussions and share their knowledge with relevant stakeholders, such as suppliers, customers, or industry peers. By sharing experiences and best practices, supply chain managers can quickly gain insights into potential risks and effective mitigation strategies without significant time investment.

Prioritizing Risks

Once supply chain managers identify risks, those risks should be prioritized based on their likelihood and impact. The risks with the highest potential impact should be the first risks to be addressed.

This prioritization of risks permits supply chain managers to allocate resources effectively and promptly manage the most critical risks. Addressing the most significant and most likely risks will not take as long as treating all risks, so it becomes a fast way to cover the worst-case contingencies.

Planning for Contingencies

Supply chain managers should develop high-level contingency plans for any potential risks that have severe consequences. While detailed contingency planning may require more time, having a broad outline of the response and recovery steps can provide a foundation for quick decision-making during a crisis. Supply chain managers can also develop generic contingency plans that can address a wide range of organizational disruptions.

Using Regular Review for Improving Risk Management

Supply chain managers should establish a regular cycle for reviewing and updating risk assessments and mitigation strategies. By dedicating a specific time slot periodically (e.g., quarterly or semi-annually), supply chain managers can ensure that risk management remains an ongoing and efficient process. Regular reviews foster a proactive approach to risk management without requiring excessive time investment.

Risk Management Is a Continuous Process

Risk management is an ongoing and iterative process that requires a systematic approach, stakeholder collaboration, and the regular review and update of risk assessments. By implementing robust risk management practices, organizations can proactively identify and address potential threats and opportunities, enhancing their ability to achieve objectives while minimizing adverse impacts.

Even quick risk management strategies require periodic review and refinement. While these strategies can help address risks efficiently, it’s crucial to continuously monitor and adapt to emerging risks as your organization evolves.

Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC, is a faculty member of the reverse logistics management and government contracting and acquisition programs at the University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles; a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix; and a doctoral degree in management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in information technology project management, information technology security and logistics management from American Public University.

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