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How Can Small Businesses Protect Themselves Against Supply Chain Issues?

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Keeping Your Head Above Water During Covid

It’s been a difficult few years for small businesses. As we move towards the end of the second year of pandemic measures, we’re seeing interesting reports of the effects on SME, and a strong sense of urgency to introduce support measures for the uncertain months ahead.

What exactly has been impacting us? Covid restrictions delaying operations, rapidly draining cash reserves, and companies reducing to skeleton staff amidst furlough measures, married with an increase in prices due to scarcity, have meant a huge hit on SME working and income. Alongside this, shortages of European workers has had an impact on how many drivers are available to operate forklifts, which means it is difficult to conduct business as usual. Add to that the delays in border crossings which are impacting supply chains following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and it’s been something of a perfect storm.

As we regroup across the industry to ensure a resilient return to business, what can be done as small business owners to alleviate the situation we find ourselves in.

Automate To Get Ahead

Automating working practices, from routine reporting to stock management and CRM data collection, can save employee hours whilst minimising expenditure and improving efficiency by bringing more tasks in-house. Incorporating this approach to your practices into the foundation of your business will create a culture that is prepared for changes ahead, with cash and hours in reserve should we see future supply chain trouble.

Including automation in your business also puts you in a prime position to onboard inventory management systems or supply chain management software. These automation platforms are an incredibly successful tool in streamlining inventory planning and analysis, keeping tabs on your supply chain, and enabling early detection of disruption ahead.

Keep Your Supply Pool Diverse

We all know the old saying, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”, and this is also sage advice when it comes to your supply chain. Being dependent on one supplier leaves you incredibly vulnerable when supply chains become precarious. Diversifying your suppliers across a broader network can offer you more security against supply chain disruption, and keep you ahead of the competition when industry factors start shifting in periods of difficulty.

Developing a broader scope in sourcing suppliers also opens your business up to new connections with specialised expertise that you may have missed otherwise by sticking with one supplier. With numerous suppliers on board, you can afford to explore your purchasing options to ensure you’re getting the highest quality for the best price.

Develop A Contingency Plan

When working with an unstable supply chain, a steady contingency plan is essential. Identifying suitable secondary suppliers that will avoid the particular disruptions that your primary suppliers are vulnerable to is a great first step towards solid contingency practice.

It’s also a mindful step to build supply chain disruption into your budget – what cash flow reserves will you have in place in the event of a disruption to carry you smoothly through Plan B, C, or D?

Maintain Supply Chain Visibility 

Ensuring you have full supply chain visibility from start to finish will put you in good stead to avoid future supply chain disruption. Each unique stage of the supply chain involves its own processes, risks and challenges, and knowing about them directly, rather than through delays later down the line, can give you more time to act in the event of a disruption.

Alongside general process visibility, having some further context around your supplier can also be very useful. Understanding the financial stability of your primary and secondary suppliers is another strong indicator of potential future supply problems.

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