Ways to guard against Disruptions

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Today I review an article called “18 Ways to Guard Against Disruption”. It was published in the Supply Chain Management Review in 2005 by Elkins et al.

Goal and method

The goal of this study was to assess the current state of supply chain risk management capabilities across multiple industries. The authors describe the results of several interviews with companies from multiple industries, which have been conducted by the Supply Chain Resource Consortium (SCRC, an university industry partnership for documenting supply chain management knowledge).


Based on this study 18 best practices have been identified, which have been categorized according to their impact location (internal or external) and their time orientation (current business vs. future business).

External orientation / future business (“Strategic sourcing & advanced procurement”)

  1. “Screen and regularly monitor current and potential suppliers for possible supply chain risks.
  2. Require critical suppliers to produce a detailed disruption-awareness plan and/or business-continuity plan.
  3. Include the expected costs of disruptions and operational problem resolution in the sourcing total-cost equation.
  4. Require suppliers to be prepared to provide timely information and visibility of material flows that can be electronically shared with your organization.”

External orientation / current business (“Supply-base management”)

  1. Conduct frequent teleconferences with critical suppliers to identify issues that may disrupt daily operations and discuss tactics to minimize these issues.
  2. Seek security enhancements that comply with the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), Container Security Initiative (CSI), and similar initiatives.
  3. Test and implement technologies to track containers.
  4. Conduct a detailed incident report and analysis following a major disruption.
  5. Create exception-detection/early-warning systems to discover critical logistics events that exceed normal planning parameters.
  6. Gather supply chain intelligence and monitor critical supply-base locations.

Internal orientation / current business (“Real time operations management”)

  1. Improve visibility of inventory buffers in domestic distribution channels at the part level.
  2. Classify buffered material by its level of criticality.
  3. Train key employees and groups to improve real-time decision-making capabilities.
  4. Develop decision-support tools that enable the company to reconfigure the supply chain in real time.

Internal orientation / future business (“Strategic supply chain design”)

  1. Develop predictive analysis systems that incorporate intelligent search agents and dynamic risk indices.
  2. Construct damage-control plans for likely disruption scenarios.
  3. Understand the cost trade-offs for different risk-mitigation strategies.
  4. Enhance systemwide visibility and supply chain intelligence by using improved near-real-time databases.”

The authors note that none of the companies had implemented all of the identified measures at the same time and they suggest:

Companies may want to use the best-practices list as a thought-starter to help them prioritize which supply chain risk management elements to adopt. For example, companies could develop an internal survey, based on the best-practice list, which would assess their supply chain risk management capabilities.


This article closes a gap at the SCRM Blog of some early exploratory research on how supply chain risk management is done in practice. Even though the description of the methodology lacks several important facts, e.g. how many companies have been interviewed and how were the interviews conducted, the results still show an interesting direction.
The next obvious questions, which to my knowledge have not been pursued in an systematic manner, would be:

  1. Which of the strategies is best used in what setting?
  2. How should a company prioritize their efforts, if they wanted to invest in supply chain risk management?


Elkins, D, Handfield, R.B., Blackhurst, J., & Craighead, C.W. (2005). 18 Ways to Guard Against Disruption Supply Chain Management Review

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