7 Vulnerabilities Global Manufacturing Presents and How to Manage Them

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Global markets are huge drivers of economic growth, contributing to GDP and promoting economic stability within countries across the globe. The ability for corporations to operate in diverse locations allows for better access to resources, opens up new labor markets, and secures new consumer markets in which to sell their goods. In addition, local businesses often rely on trade with foreign suppliers for raw materials and components from which to produce their finished products.

As an industry, the global product manufacturing sector is particularly vulnerable to disruptions in foreign markets. For starters, product manufacturing in North America is heavily dependent on raw materials and components that are largely sourced from overseas. Consequently, these countries can have a significant impact on a production line.

While it is not always possible to anticipate disruption, it is important to be aware of conditions that may pose a threat to the supply line. Any breakdown in the trading or shipping system will have a significant impact that can affect the economy, not only on a company-wide level but a societal level too.


Illustration: A Supply Chain Factory

Seven Potential Supply Chain Disruptions


Resource Disruptions

As raw materials and components are the building blocks of a product, it is important to assess how a reduced supply will impact product development plans. Disruptions can be caused by environmental factors, such as storms and earthquakes, or simply a scarcity of resources. A shortage of raw materials can slow down production unless an alternative solution is found. 


Shipping and Distribution

Illustration: Global DistributionShipping and distribution can affect both the export and import of components from overseas markets. Disruptions to air travel and surface modes of transport can occur due to severe weather events, natural disasters, political turmoil, or labor disruptions. Delays in getting the materials needed to manufacture products can result in further delays along the project timeline and the roadmap. 

Knowing your product roadmaps inside and out will make it easier to identify alternative components available in other product lines. The ability to substitute, pivot, and re-evaluate with efficiency is what is required to be agile in manufacturing. 


Labor Shortages

Illustration: Empty ForkliftsLabor shortages can affect production in a multitude of ways. This challenge could hit close to home, with a shortage of workers in your own company, whether that is in your product teams or in your factories. Labor shortages can also affect your product plans when your partners, such as raw material suppliers, have a shortage of employees and are consequently producing less material. 

Within the manufacturing facility, the same applies. Even with an adequate supply of raw materials and components, a shortage of workers means that products simply cannot get built. Labor shortages within the distribution channels can prevent a finished product from being delivered to its intended market. 


striking-workers_bLabor Disruptions

Aside from labor shortages, labor disruptions, such as strikes, pose another significant risk to the production process. The risk again lies within the resource supply lines, within the manufacturing facilities themselves, and within the distribution channels. While there is not always anything your company can do to avoid these disruptions, awareness and flexibility can help your company ride the storm.  


Illustration: Environment Impact

Environmental Impacts

Environmental phenomena such as inclement weather or earthquakes are one of the bigger threats that we cannot easily prepare for. Hurricane winds, flooding, and fires can destroy vital infrastructure, cause power outages, and ground planes which disrupt distribution routes. While these events can happen without warning, planning for possible buffers and alternative solutions can help.


Illustration: Covid19 Pandemic

Social Factors 

It's been almost three years since the Covid 19 Pandemic began, and the worldwide population is still managing the effects. Production in many facilities was affected as staff became infected with the virus. Production slowed and, in other cases, halted altogether. As a result, supply chains were impacted, affecting manufacturing facilities across the globe. 


Illustration: Politics

Political Factors

Political factors, such as wars, trade disputes, or the transfer of political power, can impact vital infrastructure. Whether you rely on a country for a particular resource or as an export market for your finished goods, these factors can significantly affect your business and are mostly beyond your control. 



The Importance of Conducting a Risk Analysis to Improve Agility

While these seven factors pose a significant threat to global product manufacturing, causing delivery delays and increased costs, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk. Part of your product development strategy should be to assess the potential risks of disruption. 

By taking a proactive approach, you can potentially avert a total production shutdown.

  • Identify the potential risks ahead of time.
  • Arm yourself with an in-depth knowledge of your supply lines.
  • Foster strong relationships with your suppliers.
  • Identify alternative sources that can be used should the need arise.
  • Identify the extent of component dependencies across your product portfolio.
  • Determine the operational impact of potential disruption.
  • Estimate the financial impact of various disruptions. 
  • Identify the potential barriers to getting the product out to the target market.

Understanding these vulnerabilities and their impact will allow you to develop a strategic plan that can be implemented in case of an emergency. This will allow you to pivot quickly and adapt to the changing environment. 


How to Counter Vulnerabilities with an Agile Team


Product manufacturing is a dynamic, all-encompassing process. Having a product manager who works well with his teams and is well versed on supply line risks is your first line of defense in countering vulnerabilities. As we have seen in recent times, experiencing a supply chain disruption is a matter of course rather than an exception, so developing a plan should be mandatory rather than optional. 

Promote focus groups with your teams in order to discuss possible solutions to potential problems. Arming yourself and your product teams with relevant knowledge means that they will adapt easily and quickly should the worst case present itself. 

Keep in mind that any disruption to your product development process will likely impact your competitors' products as well. Having an alternate product strategy already in place could prove advantageous in getting your finished product to market faster than your competitors. Your company may reap the benefits of gaining valuable market share and a reputation for reliability. 


Use Gocious PRM Software to Create Agile Product Roadmaps

With a proactive leader managing agile product teams, the chances of averting problems are much improved. Your product roadmap is your central platform that informs the process. With agility built into its functioning, your product roadmap is easily adaptable to reflect shifts in strategy and highlight the impacts across the organization. As your Single Source of Truth, Gocious PRM software facilitates ease of communication in order to keep all stakeholders apprised of the changing situation. Book your free demo to see how Gocious can work for you. 


Topics: Manufacturing, Product Management

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