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Supply-Chain-StressOur supply chain is a complex and fast moving environment that is rife for disaster. There are so many moving parts and details that it’s easy to imagine that the smallest mismatch in a single data field, or delayed shipment would cause a ripple effect that could grow to the proportions of a tidal wave, taking with it multiple trading partners in a single afternoon. And yet that doesn’t seem to happen.

SupplyChainDigest updated its list of The Top Suppply Chain Disasters of All Time in 2009. I haven’t seen an update since then, and I think that is telling in itself. It isn’t that I don’t believe there have been no disasters since then, but it’s more likely that there have been fewer disastrous situations with less horrendous consequences. And that’s a testimony to the resilience of the modern supply chain.

Despite what goes on every day with regard to problems of data delivery, multiple hops between trading partners, changes in EDI data requirements, and just plain human error, things seem to get resolved. Certainly shipments get delayed, orders get details wrong, and documents go missing along the way. But the saving grace that makes things work out in the end is that people (right… people) are watching over the issues and get involved as needed in order to fix problems.

Looking through the SupplyChainDigest list of disasters it looks like the worst of the problems were because of technology going awry. Automation plays a large part in making our supply chain perform at lightning speed especially in warehouses. And when warehouse automation doesn’t work products don’t ship. Further down the list in terms of magnitude of horror are instances of software and systems malfunctions that were mostly miscalculations on the part of planners and management.

My point in dredging up these incidents is to make note that while it may just be that SupplyChainDigest hasn’t gone back and updated their list, I also know that I don’t hear reports of such problems as frequently. Overall that’s a great thing, but I also think it points to an increased level of reliability and flexibility in both the infrastructure that supports our supply chain and in the resilience of the people who manage it. What’s your take?

Last modified on Thursday, 17 October 2013
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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