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Contested Communication Can Accelerate Resilient Communications

Here is another blog post from Rajinder Bhandal…

I had another wonderful opportunity to catch up with Peter Guinto, the President of Government, Defense and Aerospace Business at Resilinc, to talk further on the subject of contested logistics planning. This time, I was keen to unravel the value of contested communication and shed light on any past failures within supply chains during emergency situations and discuss what can be done to drive resilient communications. Resilinc are the leading experts in protecting global supply chains and operations. Resilinc have a strong commitment towards mapping out real-time disruptions, and protecting supply chain continuity, across all the supplier tiers.

I appreciate your time Peter – it’s always good to talk with you! I have summarised my conversation and key points made by Peter below.

Supply Chain Risk Management

The importance of supply chain supplier working relationships is firmly under the stoplight! Alongside close working relationships and collaboration, it is also vital to know who is in the supply chain network. In other words, where they are physically represented, whether in tier 1, tier 2, or tier 3, knowing who those suppliers are is going to matter very much.

Supply chains face uncertainty and risk in the form of natural disasters such as hurricanes and environmental risk, and man-made disasters in the form of geo-political risk, cyber security threats to name just a few. Pandemics and epidemics have also exposed fragility in global supply chains causing turmoil in supply and demand, leading to dysfunctional supply-chains. In fact, the latest new book published in March 2023, by Rob Handfield, Ph.D., and Daniel Finkenstadt, LtCol, USAF, Ph.D., Supply Chain Immunity: Overcoming our Nation’s Sourcing Sickness in a Post-COVID World (Synthesis Lectures on Operations Research and Applications, provides a solid grounding on this timely matter. Peter Guinto also makes contributions in the book as the Market Intelligence Lead for the Air Force, The US Department of Defense (DoD), and Federal-Level Supply Chain Task Force.

Business Continuity Plan

Environmental risk continues to be a growing problem alongside failure to take any meaningful action. For example, the impact of hurricanes affects warehousing and trucking of inventory, this is because there is a surge in demand for essential items such as food and other important commodities. This type of peak in supply and demand causes issues and delays in shipping as well as inland warehousing. Therefore, this leads to a “sell-to, sell” situation, which only becomes worse on the back of the climate change dilemma.

Step one: know that it is… a business continuity plan!

Fixing things before they break is good! “Prevention is better than cure” as the famous proverb states! A business continuity plan serves an important function towards “mapping out ahead of the game” on key deliverables. To give an example, one of Resilinc’s client has around 16,000 suppliers in tier 1, and 140,000 suppliers in tier 2, therefore mapping out local trucking companies in this context is going to be vital during times of emergencies and hurricanes. Furthermore, a business continuity plan enables continuous monitoring of risks associated with weather, labour shortages, and changes in the environment.

Contested Communication

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of flocked nasal swab test kits highlighted numerous malfunctions in supply chains, logistics, and communication with key people in supply chain. Sadly, this is despite early warning cautions presented in the form of Handfield’s (2010) seminal report: Planning for the Inevitable: The Role of the Federal Supply Chain in Preparing for National Emergencies. In fact, a very well-known US healthcare manufacturer of swab test kits ran into difficulty during the Covid-19 pandemic, making it virtually impossible to get through and communicate in any shape or form!

The Defense Production Act Title III provides support during emergencies in the context of manufacturing and supply chains, and sometimes this type of critical information sadly doesn’t reach the manufacturer as they are simply inundated with emails and phone calls. Even when the message was simply that the Government desired to provide a large sum of non-dilutive capital to help them expand their operations, the message will not get through during a significant supply chain disruption. In the case of this US manufacturer of swab test kits, they received their message in the form of a special delivery by hand!

Contested communication during times of emergencies needs to be embraced by all organisations. Thus, sustaining existing supply relationships and creating closer ties is going to become a matter of necessity.

Preparing For Contested Communication

The example above of the well-known US healthcare manufacturer of swab test kits raises some interesting questions. In this case, with regards to communication, wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) was all intact, however there was no response from the other side.

How can organisations continue to communicate when there is no Wi-Fi, no email, no internet, no phone calls due to environmental damage of hurricane or another threat, could be a cyber threat? Then what alternatives and options are available for supply chain communication?

I think the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has provided a very solid backdrop for this discussion. The use of cellular based hotspots and satellite-based internet connectivity has been vital for the defence of the Ukraine. Even though all utilities were taken out in many areas, having the ability to communicate the need for supplies/support through the aforementioned technologies has been THE fundamental mismatch thus far. The result is that Ukrainian soldiers have largely had what they needed, and Russians have not.

And what do supply chain leaders need to start thinking about? 

I think it is really important for companies to start thinking about this kind of thing, particularly companies that support critical infrastructure. Their resilience is vital since what they do provides the backbone for society.