pandemic, disruption, covid-19, coronavirus, manufacturing, supply chain, risk

A pandemic associated with widespread business disruption can so easily shape the future for manufacturers and suppliers. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, big changes are already happening, such as an increase in manufacturing automation and a reduced need for assembly line workers. Manufacturers are under a significant amount of pressure, and many have stepped up to produce essential products like hand sanitizer, protective face shields, respirators and ventilators. Despite all these efforts, it has still proven difficult to keep up with rapidly changing demand. However, there are three important strategies that can help your business manage unexpected disruption across markets and industries.

1. Improve Shop Floor Automation

Automation can be defined as a technology, or set of technologies, that enable a process or procedure that can be performed with minimal human assistance. The process of manufacturing household products like toilet paper and paper towels—products that have consistently been out of stock during the outbreak—is highly automated. Manufacturers of these staple products can make more or less depending on the demand, with little to no risk to workers. But they are still dependent on the steady flow of raw materials from their suppliers.

2. Enhance Supply Chain Visibility and Risk Management

There will likely be a need for tools and processes that enable greater supply chain visibility, improved risk analyses and disruption simulations. Manufacturers should begin to focus more on their suppliers’ capabilities. It could help ease concerns over perceived risks like a global toilet paper shortage, when in reality stores just struggle to keep up with restocking.

3. Address Disruption and Constraints in the Supply Chain

The supply chain has experienced a staggering amount of disruption over the past couple of months. This is illustrated by countless grocery stores around the world with empty shelves where common products should be. Suppliers are still grappling with how to assess the outbreak and associated impacts, so manufacturers will need to look at constraints up and down the supply chain to further mitigate risk. In the longer term, business processes will need to be re-evaluated to try and expose vulnerabilities—like the effects of panic buying—followed by an extensive due diligence process to better understand risk exposure.

In a recent article written by AutomationWorld’s Stephanie Neil, QAD Director of Consumer and Food & Beverage Markets Stephen Dombroski contributes his insights on manufacturer and supplier capabilities in the wake of a pandemic.

“Manufacturing companies utilize two supply chains today; the physical supply chain consisting of all products and the digital supply chain that contains all information. Synchronizing both supply chains with all manufacturing, distribution, and procurement processes will enable companies to be flexible and agile.”  – Stephen Dombroski, Director of Consumer and Food & Beverage Markets

To learn more about how to address disruption in the face of a global health crisis, read the full story in AutomationWorld.

Manufacturing disruption can happen overnight, as evident with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to formulate disruption strategies for both the short and long term to be able to quickly adapt and prepare for future changes. Will your company survive and have a competitive advantage during the next disruption?


  1. Awesome article Caleb! Enhancing supply chain visibility is extremely important now to re-assure customers that they are getting their products from credible sources and well-maintained warehouses. Easy connectivity between 3PLs with final mile carriers is necessary for facing challenges regarding inventory stockpiling of items emanating from China.