The global pandemic may have finally ended, but its impact on global supply chains continues to linger. During the recent International Telecoms Week (ITW) 2023 – a premier event uniting leaders from across various sectors of the telecommunications industry – experts participated in a panel to deliberate on the impact of supply chain disruptions and their efforts to navigate the lingering challenges facing them. 

The panel “How To Ensure Business Continuity In The Face Of Ongoing Supply Chain Disruption?” included industry leaders such as John Nolan, CDO of Bluebird Network, David Bruce, Head of EU, US And APAC at GCX, David Strauss, Principal at Broadband Success Partners, David Collier, COO of Infinite Electronics, Fernando Garcia, CSO of INGENIUM, and Aaron Werly, VP of Technology at Zayo

The panel began with participants reflecting on supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, the majority noting a drastic increase in lead times, which in some cases, like GCX, extended from a standard three months to nearly a year. Although these times have been curtailed since the height of COVID-19, they are still notably higher than pre-pandemic levels. Lingering challenges and a large increase in demand for data centers suggest supply chain operations will likely remain at these new elevated levels of delay.

In this redefined landscape, traditional planning methods are no longer adequate. The panelist stressed the need for an increased focus on risk assessment and the management of each company’s risk tolerance. To combat the large lead times, they introduced strategies like diversifying production sourcing, establishing deeper relationships with strategic vendors, and even implementing vertical integration – the process of owning more stages of production.

The panel also explored the idea of nearshoring – the establishment of partnerships with more localized suppliers and manufacturers. By relocating production closer to end users, lead times could shorten, and disruptions caused by long transits could be reduced. However, some panelists, like Fernando Garcia, expressed his reservations about this approach, citing the potential escalation of costs, the need for substantial R&D to maintain a diverse range of regional suppliers, and the risk of straining relationships by alienating long-term suppliers. 

Despite these concerns, other panelists maintained the associated challenges could be mitigated. Furthermore, David Collier ventured that tradeoffs are simply a fundamental requirement of supply chain management. Organizations must always balance cost, speed, and resilience, and each must determine how much they are willing to pay to increase one or the either.

As the session concluded, the panelists agreed the supply chains would likely never return to pre-pandemic levels and that companies would be required to adapt to the new normal. They underlined the increasing importance of risk assessment and the need for each company to carefully implement the strategies best suited to its specific needs. 

Registered attendees of ITW 2023 can view the panel on-demand via the event app. The session recording can also be viewed here.