Late last week, my hometown of Chicago was once again in the news (and no, this time it was not because we’re sending yet another former politician to jail). Rather my city (and in fact, my neighborhood) was the target of an intended PETN-filled toner cartridge originating somewhere in the Middle East. According to the details of the story, the would-be terrorists used the air freight supply chain as the intermediary for their tidings. While this incident serves as an all too familiar reminder that the world is still at war with radicals intent on harming innocent civilians, it also is a reminder that terrorism is a very significant threat to our supply chains — and one that few companies are prepared for. Yet there are ways of addressing the threat not only through better supply chain design, but also contingency planning.
An article in World Trade Magazine from earlier this summer offers up the start of a prescription for minimizing supply risk exposure from terrorism. The article quotes Mark Nelson of Savi (a supply chain tracking and visibility vendor) as noting that finding ways of “getting goods across borders as quickly as possible” can minimize the impact of terrorism. One of the rationales for this is that under a specific threat, port shutdowns will bring supply chains to a halt. Another is that tracking mechanisms such as the electronic monitoring and sealing of a container can “communicate with U.S. Customs’ information systems, enabling Customs to automatically know whether there has been a security breach — if not, the trucks are quickly cleared for passage.”
What are other techniques for building resiliency into our supply chains to mitigate the impact of supply risk due to the terrorist threat? A few come to mind immediately:
- Shorten the supply chain when possible — the shorter a supply chain, the less potential for disruption along its path. Shortening the supply chain may refer to number of tiers of suppliers, overall distance traveled of various parts, components, finished products, etc.
- If possible, reduce 100% dependence on …