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The Official Baldrige Blog

Work Systems and Supply Chains--Are You Ready in Case of Disaster?


I heard the example that best helped me understand work systems and supply chains at a Baldrige training event right after the very sad 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. A colleague was talking about automakers in the United States and elsewhere whose suppliers were located in the devastated region. Suddenly, manufacturers whom I didn't even realize had Japanese connections were faced with sudden and unexpected supply-chain disruptions. Such disruptions became critical because work systems (see Glossary in Baldrige Excellence Framework; how an organization’s work is accomplished consists of, among other things, the external resources needed to develop and produce products) often depend on suppliers.

According to "The Motor Vehicle Supply Chain: Effects of the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami" by the Congressional Research Service, "Located in the disaster region and adversely affected by these forces are a number of manufacturing facilities which are integral to the global motor vehicle supply chain. They include plants that assemble automobiles and many suppliers which build parts and components for vehicles. Some of the Japanese factories that were forced to close provide parts and chemicals not easily available elsewhere. This is particularly true of automotive electronics, a major producer of which was located near the center of the destruction."

The National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report that the United States experienced $8 billion in disasters in 2014. This included eight weather and climate disasters (including droughts, floods, severe storms, and winter storms), with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 53 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

With such examples and data, many organizations turn to the Baldrige Excellence Framework for guidance on what to take into consideration when considering work system decisions, supply-chain management, and safety and emergency preparedness. For example, does your disaster and emergency preparedness system take your reliance on suppliers into account (see Baldrige Criteria, 6.2c)? And how do you consider work system decisions, including decisions on when to use external suppliers of products and services, in your strategy (see Baldrige Criteria, 2.1a)?

How do you know if your operations and work systems are safe from disasters?

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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This is absolutely valid, but it is also old news. The same lessons were learned after Katrina and before that after every major disruptive event back to Napoleon observing that his supply chain was what drove his success. I've spoken about every company inheriting risk from its supply chain -- that's what happens. You can outsource the work, but you cannot outsource the responsibility.
Awesome Work!

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