Break the Chain and Adopt “The Web”

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A chain is looked at as strong, unbreakable and secure.  The term “supply chain” is meant to conjure those same sentiments in the manufacturing sector, allowing all of us to believe that we manufacturers, in all industries, are impervious to disruptions in our “chain”. 

Due to recent economic and geo-political events, we are experiencing kinks in our chains and disrupting production from all sides. Our ability to procure raw materials for our industry, printed circuit board manufacturing, is being tested as China reels from the recent Coronavirus outbreak. 

We are also seeing an increase in inquiries with current and potential customers as they struggle to maintain their production schedules. I have had multiple conversations these past few weeks where I hear “…we can’t get our boards from China” and “…no one has given us any indication when this may change…”. 

Think of the ramifications here: this is just one industry and a handful of people that I’ve spoken with! 

Our reliance and belief in the supply chain must change by beginning to adopt a “supply web”, as Aurora Circuits President, Dr. Christopher Kalmus, recently quipped.  There is a true need to diversify, branch out and use the strength of a web to better protect ourselves against production hiccups.

There is a true need to diversify, branch out and use the strength of a web to better protect ourselves against production hiccups.

This is not a letter addressed to the idea of self-reliance, lambasting the current view of globalization; rather, there are clear dangers of narrow supply chain management.  Feel free to call it a web strategy, on-shoring, diversifying—all manufacturers are all accountable to maintain current production flows and have to consider better buying practices moving forward to continue our upward, economic trajectory.

We are also learning that a disruption with world’s leading manufacturing country has implications across numerous verticals, thus leading us to consider new paths towards procurement.  All of us need to stay the course and keep these new supply channels open, even when normalcy returns, and not revert back to our old “supply chain”, relying on a select few manufacturers for our needs.

When I was an undergraduate and working towards my History and Political Science degrees, I always railed against the “history repeats itself..” cliché.  It’s old, tired and elicits feelings that we are caught in a cycle of prosperity, war, recession—rinse and repeat; however, I did, and still do, embrace the past as learning events that can assist us as we plan for the future.  If these lessons are used and implemented as solutions, our country can use ever-increasing globalization as an advantage.

Currently, our ideas of “globalization” and “supply chain” are being tested because we’ve narrowed our focus and put our faith in the hands of very few producers. When China controls over 42% of PCB manufacturing and over 90%  of printed circuit boards are produced in APAC, it’s more important than ever that we expand the printed circuit board industry web and look to other sources.

If we truly embrace and hold true to this idea of diversifying supply channels, the benefits will be felt in trying times like these. 

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