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Procurement and supply chain strategies for COVID-19 disruptions


Even as the world re-emerges and vaccination rates continue, businesses across the globe are still grappling with supply chain disruptions. In fact, a May 2021 CFIB survey found that 41% of business owners are worried about business logistics—compared to 29% in April 2020, at the initial height of the crisis.

Supply chain shortages, border restrictions, and lockdowns have all taken their toll, with both immediate and far-reaching effects. But how can organizations weather the impact and future-proof their business?

Let's review some of the short- and long-term strategies that Canadian businesses can implement to manage procurement and supply chain risks.

Procurement and supply chain disruptions

From aviation to electronics or pharmaceuticals to food, no industry has been immune to COVID-19. In 2021, the impact has been felt by the construction, automotive, semiconductor, and pet food industries, just to name a few.

Organizations of all sizes have had to rethink their logistics. A 2020 HSBC report found that 29% of companies globally were diversifying their supply chain to work with more suppliers, while 22% of Canadian firms were doing so.

According to an Institute for Supply Management survey conducted in April and May 2020, 20% of global companies were planning or had begun to reshore or nearshore some operations because of supply chain disruptions. A more recent 2021 survey from Thomas reported that 83% of North American manufacturers were likely or extremely likely to reshore.

While it's unclear when the pandemic will fully subside, what's certain is that the operational impact from COVID-19 continues to affect the domestic and global supply chains. To help companies handle these challenges, we identified three key risk areas for many organizations.

  • Labour capacity - A struggling or diminished workforce struggles to meet increased demand impacts capacity, while temporary reassignments to crisis task forces eclipse day-to-day operations. To maintain business continuity, companies need to identify their mission-critical functions and establish their minimum service thresholds.
  • Supply chain exposure - Relying on suppliers located in affected regions, as well as cost, scheduling, and shipping delays due to lockdowns and border closures, can leave the supply chain at risk. To mitigate this risk, companies need to diversify their supply chain to ensure a steady cadence and continuous flow of products and services.
  • Fraud and compliance - The last year has brought an increased risk of procurement fraud and non-compliance with internal procedures, relevant regulations, and legislation. Organizations of all sizes need to perform advanced procurement and contract analytics to ensure compliance and reduce business risk.

Procurement and supply chain resilience

Working through COVID-19–or any market disruption–requires creative strategies to enable on-the-ground decision-making and provide leaders with access to up-to-date information. Mitigation plans for crisis-related risks must be practical and accessible, allowing employees to make smart decisions quickly. A multifaceted approach that addresses your organization's specific challenges will help determine the best way of managing the supply chain and ensure its resilience.

In formulating a response strategy, organizations need to consider the following:

  • Position procurement and sourcing as a strategic tool to mitigate supply chain disruptions.
  • Identify and implement alternative sourcing strategies for essential products and critical services.
  • Adapt internal control systems to accommodate process changes.
  • Assess supplier relationships to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Develop a go-forward plan for procurement modernization to address supply chain resilience.

Liquidity assessment and planning

Ensuring there is sufficient liquidity to weather the storm is one of the steps in assessing your company's preparedness. Businesses must evaluate and monitor their expenditures and preserve cash flow during a crisis. Ideally, every business should evaluate its expenses by type and vendor. As part of this analysis, it's essential to consider each of the following:

  • Enhanced payment terms - Negotiate payment terms with vendors through a procurement process or a proactive dialogue with your vendors.
  • Prioritize spending - Consider whether the expenditure is necessary and can be minimized or delayed.
  • Re-procurement - Determine if a better price or terms can be obtained through executing a new procurement or vendor selection process.

How BDO can help

Disruptions and crises are challenging to navigate–especially if there is no precedent from which to draw knowledge. Our Procurement Advisory team can guide you through the uncertainty of today's market and help improve your long-term procurement and supply chain resilience.

Our comprehensive approach is to develop effective procurement and supply chain strategies, and deploy resources and plans that allow for a fast and cohesive response to the threats facing your organization's procurement and supply chain.

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