The role of the Supply Chain Manager during and after the Corona crisis


The increasing number of Covid-19 infections and the lockdown-light in Belgium are causing many organisations to see a significant drop in sales.

Supply chains are disturbed, particularly in organisations depending on raw materials or parts coming from suppliers worldwide. 



Quite a challenge for today's Supply Chain Manager. We asked Robert Knieriem, Principal at Robert Walters Interim Management, what impact the coronavirus is having on the role of the Supply Chain Manager today and in the coming months.

What does the role of a Supply Chain Manager look like for the moment?

Robert: "Especially in the food sector we have seen a lot of people hoarding over the past few weeks. As a result, some items that are usually in stock disappeared quickly, and we saw empty shelves in the supermarkets. In the first instance, the Supply Chain Manager and his/her team will have to make sure that the planning is revised and the empty shelves are filled again as quickly as possible. People tend to panic when they see empty shelves not being filled immediately, which stimulates hoarding even more. Fortunately, the situation in the supermarkets is normalising today, as suppliers have intervened quickly and supply chain teams have taken the necessary actions".

What about organisations depending on foreign suppliers?

"Organisations that depend on parts coming from China, Italy or Spain for their production, for example, can get into trouble when local factories close or reduce their production. This makes the supply chain much more complex. Suppliers cannot deliver on time, which also slows down local production and deliveries.

In China, production is slowly getting back on track, but we see problems in logistics: many flights to Europe have been cancelled, air and ship freight need to be rescheduled, and this obviously has an impact on distribution costs. So these are - more than ever - challenging times for the supply chain teams to come up with a solution: inventory analysis, reviewing the planning and looking for alternatives".

What role does a Supply Chain Manager play in such a crisis period?

"Supply Chain Managers who clearly mapped out their supply network prior to this pandemic also have a clear view of the possible risks at suppliers, components and their capabilities. This obviously requires a lot of work and time from the supply chain team. Purchasing is often measured based on cost savings. But when standard supply is in danger of being compromised, the Supply Chain Manager must react quickly and call in the alternatives. This often involves additional costs, but ensures that the supply chain does not suffer too much from the crisis situation".

Is it too late for organisations to focus on optimising their supply chain now?

"It's never too late. There will, of course, be organisations suffering from this pandemic and hoping that this will pass quickly and pick up where they left off once the crisis is over. But we still expect majority of organisations to learn lessons from this crisis and make the necessary investments to map out their supply chain very accurately. Hiring an Interim Supply Chain Manager with the right industry experience will ensure that the entire supply chain is scrutinised, risks are calculated and alternatives are available, so that a solution can be provided quickly when the organisation experiences another disruption or crisis situation.


Find out more?

Robert Walters regularly places Interim Supply Chain Managers in project related assignments or replacements. Looking for an Interim Supply Chain Manager to reinforce your team? Upload your vacancy or contact Robert Knieriem.

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