Insights

New Survey Reveals the Immense Supply Chain Challenges Ahead

May 4, 2020

Supply Chain Canada has begun releasing results of its COVID-19 survey, showing the depth of Supply Chain challenges organizations face in these uncertain times. Here’s how to adapt your talent strategy to respond.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been covering the rapidly changing Supply Chain landscape resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an unprecedented time, with Supply Chain professionals across industries performing heroics to make sure that vital goods and medical equipment remain moving. Across industries, organizations are dealing with:

  • Disruption in international supply due to border restrictions,
  • Changing demand patterns for their products, lower in some cases and higher in others
  • In retail and other industries, the push to expand eCommerce and contactless Supply Chain options while safeguarding the customer experience, not to mention:
  • Shifting to remote work at the corporate level to get it all done.

Among other issues. In many organizations, it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation, as companies work to shift and expand their capabilities.

At the same time, we’re seeing something else rather unprecedented: the wider world is waking up to the immense importance that Supply Chain professionals play in keeping the global economy moving. Consumers and business leaders are realizing that Supply Chain Managers don’t just move goods from point A to B. They use sophisticated strategy to reduce risk, conquer disruptions, and innovate.

In a time of immense challenges, Supply Chain Managers are the ultimate vanguard of a company’s brand, and its bottom line.

Now, Supply Chain Canada, the country’s leading professional organization in the field, has begun releasing survey results that show the impact of these challenges – and the ability of organizations to respond. Supply Chain Canada surveyed a number of organizations for their Canada COVID-19 report. While the whole survey isn’t out, they’ve begun to release the results on social media.

Here a few of the big takeaways they have shared so far:

  • A staggering 72% of companies said that they face Supply Chain disruptions due to the pandemic, including impacts on workforces, supply shortages, reduced access to PPE, shutdowns of projects, and unplanned spend.
  • 68% of companies surveyed have taken action by engaging with suppliers, logistics providers, and other partners.
  • 67% said that they’ve been monitoring the availability of supplies, and have chosen alternative purchasing arrangements as a result.
  • 56% are working to determine stock and inventory levels, and many respondents noted challenges in maintaining effective operations as well as switching to working from home.
  • 62% described their Supply Chain as “moderately resilient” (focusing on managing disruptions once they occur) in the COVID-19 era, whereas 24% said their Supply Chains were “highly resilient,” (able to rapidly shift sourcing, manufacturing, or distribution) and 14% said they were “not resilient” (dependent on existing sourcing, manufacturing or distribution).

A majority of companies are in the reactive mode, whereas around one sixth of companies are reliant on existing frameworks and looking for other ways to compensate for the changing situation on the ground.

Talent Strategies to Address the Challenges:

The challenges on the ground have led to an increase in front-line Warehouse positions in industries seeing an increase in demand – including Grocery, Pharmaceutical, Medical and eCommerce fulfillment. Companies like Amazon and Walmart have announced massive, well-publicized hiring efforts for these positions.

But to address these challenges, companies require other key Supply Chain competencies as well. They need people to forecast Supply and Demand, develop more responsive logistics networks, broaden their sourcing and identify alternative modes of supply, and deal with customs and import / export challenges in a rapidly changing environment. Beyond that, they need strategic leaders who can identify new emerging challenges in these areas and transform the Supply Chain to become more nimble going forward.

Companies that don’t have deep benches in these competencies are more likely to fall into the “reactive” or “not resilient” categories outlined in the survey. And those that can adapt on the fly are better poised to succeed in this uncertain era.

The challenges that Supply Chain Canada identified have major talent implications.

From our perspective, here are a few of the biggest talent issues that companies are likely to face:

  • Companies have to identify their talent needs to deal with these disruptions, especially if they’re in the “reactive” or “not resilient” categories. Failure to do so could mean untold costs and further disruption.
  • In the immediate aftermath, some companies froze their hiring to dedicate resources to fighting daily fires and adapting to the new normal. These companies need to pivot their hiring processes to video interviewing or other digital methods, if they haven’t already, to ensure that they can keep the process moving once needs are identified. Some companies have already begun doing this.
  • Some other organizations pivoted internal resources from other departments to fulfill emerging Supply Chain needs. In the short term, these companies need to reallocate those resources to their original functions and bring on new individuals who can hit the ground running and solve Supply Chain challenges. As we blogged about recently, contingent staffing could be a key strategy to achieve this.
  • Despite unemployment rising in the wider economy, we’re not seeing Supply Chain-related layoffs. Before COVID-19, Supply Chain Canada’s annual survey found that there were 6 open Supply Chain jobs for every new grad. That means that we anticipate it will still be hard to find truly impactful Supply Chain professionals who can make strategic contributions. And when companies unfreeze their hiring all at once, they could be facing a Supply Chain recruiting crunch. For these reasons, companies should be developing action plans to assess their immediate needs, and identify strategies for how to bolster their bench strength to overcome these challenges.

We encourage you to check out Supply Chain Canada’s social media pages for updates about the survey. They’ve also released a COVID-19 Resources page offering information for Supply Chain organizations working to blunt the impact of COVID-19.


And as always, reach out to Argentus if you have any immediate needs or would like to learn more about how to develop your talent strategy to deal with the challenges as they evolve.

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