Supply Chain SolutionsSupply Chain Solutions Resilience Series: Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

This article is part of a series of three articles on supply chain resilience – read our other two articles here:
Supply Chain Solutions Resilience Series: Why Supplier Relationships Matter More than Ever
Supply Chain Solutions Resilience Series: Continued Focus on Proactive Supply Chain Risk Management



In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented one of the greatest challenges experienced by our supply chain team. The dual challenges of supply constraints caused by the rapid spread of the virus (and resulting lockdowns), combined with the soaring demand for healthcare and life sciences products needed to fight COVID-19 and industrial products key to enabling the new normal, offered a true test to our supply chain team around the globe.

As we look to 2021, the landscape remains volatile as the virus continues to spread and re-emerge in some areas. Many manufacturers have adapted their operating procedures to co-exist with the new normal. Companies have adjusted their policies to protect their employees, operate within their region’s regulations and maintain their lines of supply. This is particularly true at Plexus. Through the incredible efforts of talented team, we managed through the supply chain challenges presented by this pandemic. Across the globe, members of the Plexus family, across multiple disciplines, have taken on the challenges with Customer Service Excellence in mind. Plexus team members leveraged the strengths of various organizational functions to drive the best solutions for our customers. It is the resilience and commitment of each team member that enables our supply chain to react quickly and effectively. Plexus Values and Leadership Behaviors are an integral part of Plexus’ culture, helping to ensure that team members, at all levels of the organization, attack problems with a sense of urgency on behalf of our customers.
 

The contagion continues

As the pandemic remains, we continue to see sporadic interruptions in the supply chain. These interruptions are occurring with our suppliers or in the sub-tiers (suppliers to our suppliers). Issues ranging from high absenteeism impacting our suppliers’ ability to operate at full capacity, to other movement control orders disrupting the supply of our components. The Plexus team is leveraging the knowledge we gained in the first wave of the pandemic to manage through existing and future disruptions.
 

Driving results with tenacity and intelligence

When China announced the lockdown of Wuhan City in February 2020, Plexus immediately established a central command center that brought together our ‘Tiger Team’ task force. This Tiger Team includes experts from multiple regions and disciplines - a team capable of thinking outside of the box to tackle the massive number of shortages we were facing. Wah-Yen Ng, Materials Director and Yeong-Tian Ong, Materials Manager take us through the proactive work that is still happening to ensure our supply chain is in sync with the latest information, enabling Plexus to pivot quickly and ensure continuity of supply.

The Tiger Team’s initial focus was on the impacted suppliers in the Wuhan area of China. The impacted region quickly grew to include other areas of China, other areas of Asia and eventually the entire globe.

The role of the Tiger Team includes two key areas:

  1. Understanding the status of our suppliers
  2. Understanding the status of our supply
 

Understanding the status of our suppliers

The Tiger Team immediately went to work contacting suppliers within the impacted countries to determine their operational status. Suppliers who confirmed that they were affected were logged and interviewed to understand their lockdown period and recovery plans. Where possible, Plexus assisted companies in obtaining approval from their respective authorities to continue operation during the lockdown period.
 
When COVID-19 began to spread in Malaysia, the government implemented a Movement Control Order (MCO), which severely impacted businesses ability to stay open and operate. Businesses had to apply to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to gain the appropriate exceptions to continue operating. Not all businesses understood how to apply and not all applicants received initial approval. Plexus continued to advocate for its supply base, which included supporting our suppliers in obtaining the necessary approvals to stay open and continue operating. This information was shared with our global teams so they could understand any impact to their supply plans and create mitigation plans where necessary.
 
Surviving (and thriving) in the COVID-19 era would not be possible without team members embracing the One Plexus mindset. This non-negotiable ensures that all our team members are working together with a single purpose of delivering Customer Service Excellence. Members of our regional and global teams came together with a sense of urgency to identify quickly the best methods for addressing the problems presented by the pandemic. Team members designed new workflows, new metrics and new processes to navigate the new normal effectively.
 

Understanding the status of our supply

Once we understood the status of our suppliers, the second priority was to ensure the status of our supply. The teams went to work prioritizing and expediting material based on critical shortage lists provided by our sites. Working directly with our suppliers, the teams worked to accelerate these deliveries and helped our suppliers secure gating sub-tier materials. When suppliers were unable to meet previous commitments, the team provided alternate part proposals.
 
Plexus global teams have multiple toolsets that they employ to ensure that information is shared across the organization. These tools allow our manufacturing sites to determine what stock is available on the open market. Teams use those sources to close supply gaps when traditional sources break down. The teams can also share supplier specific information through our internal market alert system, which communicates crucial data out to the entire materials organization. These alerts provide guidance to our teams in terms of the impacts of disruptions and the suggested actions. These alerts can also automatically update core information such as supply lead-time in our ERP system. This ensures that Plexus is providing an accurate signal to our supply base thus securing supplier capacity and materials on behalf of our customers.
 

Tenacity driving flexibility and resilience

We must remain ultra-agile and responsive to the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic, changing global trade policies, potential disruptions of supply and any challenges to supply created by recoveries in world economies. Our team has, and is continuing to embody, tenacity, drive and a passion to succeed. We have come together as a team to optimize resources, knowledge and supply chain professionalism as we continue to deliver for our customers.

Authors:
Ryan Veleke, VP Supply Chain Solutions
Wah-Yen Ng, Regional Tactical Materials Director
Yeong-Tian Ong, Regional Tactical Team – APAC