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: Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Supply Chain Solutions Resilience Series: Why Supplier Relationships Matter More than Ever
Supply chain risk management rose in terms of importance with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plexus has long recognized the importance of supply chain risk management and has applied a proactive approach to this topic for years. Plexus teams manage this risk by engaging our state of the art-tools, working with our design teams to develop supply chains that are sustainable and scalable and identifying risk mitigation solutions to ensure continuity of supply. Hear from two of our supply chain experts on how COVID-19 challenges were overcome as a result of this approach.
Proactive supply chain risk management
DRIVE enables our teams to understand the risk in the supply chain at any point in time, including during a pandemic. The parts that were marked as high risk (i.e. single sourced, long lead times, poor supplier performance) during normal market conditions were elevated in their risk status due to the severe strains placed on the market. The DRIVE toolset was already in deployment on a number of accounts. Meaning we had already taken proactive steps to mitigate some risk on these accounts by multi-sourcing components, putting parts on supply chain programs, etc., so they were at an advantage when COVID-19 hit.
Since we had already developed a process for identifying and addressing the supply chain impact from critical events, we leaned on those processes, although at a much larger scale, to quickly mobilize during this pandemic. Our tools enabled us to identify quickly which Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers were potentially impacted based on their location. It gave us real-time awareness of changing lockdown restrictions, business changes and port closures. This real-time knowledge helped our teams react quickly to the dynamic conditions. Through combining external data sources with our internal tools, we were able to understand the potential impact to our customers immediately. We also maintained an action tracker where we assigned actions and tracked progress, giving our users direct insight into our communication with our suppliers.
As COVID-19 spread across the globe, the extent and timing of the impact varied widely across regions and countries. We utilized our Supply Chain Risk Toolset to identify components coming from impacted areas and shared that information during our internal regional coordination meetings. The regional teams were then able to contact suppliers to determine the scope of the impact and shared that information globally so site teams could mitigate their risk through performing risk buys or finding alternate sources. Our teams inherently view global collaboration and coordination as a normal course of business. This is due in part to our culture, company structure and way of approaching business. It meant we were able to align our response and identify gaps in our process.
Addressing supply chain continuity risk
By using DRIVE, a number of parts were identified as facing supply disruption. Our team was able to mitigate these risks quickly by proposing alternative parts. Our aim was to propose a drop in replacement as the top priority. Drop in replacement components have similar parameters both in terms of electrical and dimension. This would ensure form/fit/functional compatibility within the incumbent and alternate components. Therefore, using the replacement component would avoid the need for any design change at PCBA level, which is clearly helpful for our customers. Where this was not possible, we provided a specification comparison table for the incumbent and the alternate components, to allow our customers to be able to evaluate our proposal more effectively.
Our Component Engineers were key to supporting these efforts across our APAC, EMEA and Americas operations. The pandemic tested our capacity in this area. Due to our strength in engineering across Plexus, engineers from our design and development teams provided additional capacity for this effort by evaluating the feasibility of suggested alternative parts. This ensured we continued to deliver for all of our customers.
COVID-19 pandemic presented the greatest challenge our supply chain teams have experienced in living memory. However, by taking advantage of the tools and experience that our team possesses, we have and will continue to mitigate supply chain risk and ensure continuity of supply for our customers across the globe.
Becca Keller, Supply Chain Systems Manager
Carl Chua, Component Engineer