Home News BCI Comment: Supply Chain Continuity Remains Vital

BCI Comment: Supply Chain Continuity Remains Vital

by Brian Sims

Often it is the small issues that can derail a project, rather than the larger” and often better understood” risks. With several high-profile example already evident in 2013, Lyndon Bird of the BCI reminded businesses that the devil is often in the detail. He told Risk UK, ‘It is still early in the year, but two apparently unrelated stories” although both significant in terms of business continuity” have made the headlines. ‘The world’s largest and most sophisticated aircraft, the Dreamliner, has been grounded as a result of the risk of fire from a battery over-heating. The engines are perfect, the wing design beyond reproach, flight control systems better than anything seen before, but for days on end many planes sit on airfields awaiting a solution to a battery problem. I wonder how much of the total budget was spent on battery technology compared with the other components of such a modern miracle. ‘As is often said in business continuity, it might be the small, ill-considered threats that stop you, rather than the big well understood issues that your risk management programmes have already mitigated. ‘Meanwhile, in circumstances that almost started as farce, the food safety issues of the horse meat scandal have taken hold. As far as I know, no-one has been made ill by the incorrectly labelled food. However, that matters little; when a food safety scares happen, normal levels of risk assessment and tolerance are suspended. This is of course understandable; many of us would be revolted to eat insects, reptiles or domestic pets even if we were 100 per cent certain they could not harm us in anyway. ‘In this case there are four aspects to consider: is the food safe to eat, is it something that people will be prepared to eat, is the contamination accidental due to inadequate process control, is the contamination deliberate? ‘Actually, all of those questions are very different, but public perception mixes them up. This has a direct consequence on the continuity or even survival of some participants in the supply chain, including those who might have been duped or at worst too trusting of long-term business partners. ‘As the UK Government has clearly articulated, it is the ultimate responsibility of the retailer to ensure that what it sells to its customer is fit for purpose. However it is naïve to think that ultimately the mega-rich food retail chains will pay the price; in fact, public rejection of cut-price food and a move towards eating more quality produce will only push up their turnover and profits. It is no surprise to see the CEOs of some supermarkets appearing on television explaining that the days of cheap food need to end. It is doubtful if all food processing plants involved in this affair will survive, and even major brand names might need to hone their media management skills to limit damage to reputation and bottom-lines. ‘So, from meat to aircraft parts, understanding and managing continuity in a supply chain is a task fraught with difficulties. In a world where most supply chains are pruned to the bone, robust continuity is hard to achieve. Flight and food safety are both very emotive subjects. but many other supply chain failures can be equally serious, even if they get less media attention.’

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