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How to Manage a Global Supply Chain

It takes an entire globe these days to manufacture and deliver sophisticated electronics products. You might be headquartered in North America yet order TE Connectivity products from Sweden, raw materials from Africa and components from Asia. Coordinating this worldwide network is a challenge that can be met with a combination of scrutiny, planning and collaboration.


One of today’s biggest industry buzzwords is “supply chain visibility.” It can be defined as obtaining a clear idea of every link in your supply chain. Spanning far beyond your primary suppliers, the process involves digging deep to learn about your secondary, tertiary and nth-party partners. This is because your organization will ultimately be touched by the activities of even the most seemingly insignificant among them.


After you have completed the often protracted and costly process of supply chain mapping, it’s time to use that data to prioritize the risks each partner represents. For each, your team should ask what that company brings to the relationship as well as the risks you take on by being associated with them. If they are high-risk, is it possible to find another vendor with more robust business practices that would bring fewer vulnerabilities? The nature of the electronics industry means that some materials are single-source. Unless you can change the composition of your products, you have no choice but to do business with these providers. In that case, are there tweaks you can make to your warehousing to allow for stockpiling? Doing so could cushion the blow if that supplier were temporarily shut down.


Although you might need to stockpile certain elements that you can only get from one supplier, there are other components that can be delivered from various global vendors. In these instances, a just-in-time delivery strategy is appropriate, allowing you to use technology to forecast what you will need and when and ordering accordingly. This cuts down on warehouse space and is cost-effective.


Bottlenecks in the flow of materials and parts to your factory are potentially disruptive, but so are the consequences of lapses in your information security infrastructure. With hackers working all day every day to break into your systems, you absolutely must make the security of your supply chain a top priority. As we noted above, this vigilance must also extend to your third-party partners and beyond.

Managing a global supply network is no small undertaking. In order for it to be effective, your team needs to be made up of a diverse representation of stakeholders, each of whom is an expert in their own niche. Through information sharing, awareness, scrutiny and attention to detail, your organization can effectively coordinate the intricate workings of your international supply network.