Prioritizing Supply-Chain Risk in the Midst of Ongoing COVID-19 Challenges
The world has been dealing with COVID-19 for nearly a year. While there seems to be a light wavering ahead with vaccines beginning to roll out, cases continue to surge around the world, impacting personal health and continuing to cause workforce and resource issues. One of the key areas the food industry sees this impact is in the continuing constraints in the supply chain – evidenced by the periodically empty or limited offerings on grocery store shelves that frustrate mask-wearing, socially distanced shoppers lead to hoarding.
But the constraints of COVID-19 are not only causing ingredient, and thereby finished product, shortages. The constraints continue to limit or prohibit on-site supplier audits; leading to higher rotations of workers across the food supply chain; increasing challenges in product tracking; and have even made food fraud more prevalent, particularly in geographical areas severely impacted by the pandemic.
With the inability to conduct on-site audits in your supplier facilities, it is difficult to ensure they are following your supply-chain requirements and meeting all FSMA regulations, or even have enough workers and qualified workers in key positions. Additionally, ingredient shortages can cause unscrupulous persons to cut corners by substituting inferior ingredients or even adulterating them for economic gain.
Then add, as well, the increased difficulties of tracking and tracing products in these uncertain times – particularly with the varying global and regional challenges making sourcing a complex issue. Not only must one consider the supplier’s risk-control process, but one must also consider the inherent risk of the ingredient, and its end use. All of this makes manufacturers highly susceptible to supply chain problems, leading to customer complaints or even costly recalls.
When taken together, these constraints significantly emphasize the need for risk-based supply chain management. While risk management has always been a critical aspect of food safety, particularly in managing your supply chain, the pandemic's ongoing challenges and constraints serve to emphasize how much more critical it has become in these times.
On the plus side, the increased accessibility of digital solutions helps the food industry better manage the complexities, more quickly detect issues, and set and prioritize risk-based solutions. A digital risk-assessment and ranking tool offers many capabilities to build a model that meets the sourcing needs for food commodities and provides fast information for this changing landscape. Additionally, a supply chain assessment tool that provides an established framework to build a risk-ranked model can help detect and prevent EMA and food fraud by providing a fast analysis of sourcing risks by geography, ingredient, or other factors.
With risk assessment being so critical to supply chain safety, TAG has developed a proprietary Supply Chain Risk Assessment Tool that incorporates best practice methodologies to help companies improve the process of assessing supplier and product risk; evaluate risks based on your organization’s risk tolerance; and validate risks by identifying trends and highest risk areas. The purpose of having digital tools is to gain a holistic view of item risks combined with supplier performance and more effectively allocate resources based on risk.