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In February, our staff clustered around screens, reading aloud news of a mysterious new virus that was creeping its way across the sea. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, we were suddenly all shuttered in our homes, anxiously wondering how to stay safe and what changes were still to come. As the pandemic spread, the ripples were felt at every level of the supply chain. Manufacturers frantically searched for alternative suppliers to keep production flowing. Materials became unavailable and lead times became unreliable. Companies that focused on keeping costs low and inventory minimal were abruptly forced to adopt a whole new mindset to survive in an uncertain future.

The coronavirus pandemic wasn’t the only upheaval to the supply chain process. “Disruptions are increasing in frequency and magnitude, including geopolitical events, climate-related disasters and public health crises,” writes a recent article from Bain & Company. “Brexit and the US-China trade war are recent examples.” Leading companies are rethinking the cost of network risk and investing in more resilient supply chains. Analysis has shown that companies who do so grow faster due to their ability to quickly meet the needs of their customers. “They increase their perfect order rate by 20% to 40% and customer satisfaction by as much as 30%. Importantly, flexible supply chains cut costs and improve cash flow, in part through a 10% to 40% increase in inventory turns.” Disruption to workflow can be reduced further still by building buffers and improving forecasting.

                In the midst of chaos, it could be easy for details to slip through the cracks, and ForeFront Packaging was prepared to meet the increased challenges in the packaging industry. Our cloud-based platform GoldFinch is customized for inventory management, which allowed our team to communicate while working from home and also provide vital data on sales and usage in real time to our customers, enabling them to make swift and effective business decisions. We sourced personal protection equipment and shipped thousands of masks to a large tortilla producer in the south, keeping production on the shop floor moving and the employees working safely. In addition to writing blog posts, yours truly personally follows up on every order at three check points to ensure timely production and delivery. Our local warehouses manage hundreds of items plus safety stock, which has saved a profitable Chicagoland bakery from running out of a product more than once.

In this increasingly turbulent world, business leaders cannot afford to be vulnerable and allow a curveball to sink their business. Flexible sourcing, inventory with buffers, and data analytics are no longer niceties— they are essential facets of supply chain management. Companies that invest in resilient supply chains position themselves to not only survive the next global event, but thrive at the forefront of their competition.

-Crystal Skipworth