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supply chain management

Supply Chain Interruptions and Inventory Management in Crisis

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image of empty pallets

Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to reveal holes in our business processes. Some industries have felt the sting of supply chain interruptions and inventory management.Did you run out of supplies? Did a supplier shut down? Was the demand placed on your business increased or decreased?

Likely, your business faced some sort of change in these recent events, and while it is (hopefully) unlikely we will face anything of this magnitude again in the next hundred years, being prepared for disasters needs to be a part of our business plans. 

Lean Methodology in Times of Crisis 

Lean methodology looks to eliminate waste and improve efficiency – it is the opposite of hoarding. However, that doesn’t mean prudent supplies aren’t on hand. Using a visual inventory method, we make it easy to know when to restock – but what if your supplier suddenly goes under? Whether from a natural or man-made disaster, businesses have seen this happen for decades. 

While developing process maps, it is the role of a Lean Consultant to look at all areas where there could be disruption that creates inefficiency. When done well, we overcome these obstacles proactively. Of course, no one can predict the future or prepare for every possible outcome, but strategic planning around the most likely potential problems helps us resolve most of them, or at least allows us to have some agility in the face of crisis. 

The Case of Envelopes 

In one specific organization I worked with, there was a supply chain issue that was causing company-wide problems. It was an issue with semi-custom envelopes and a replacement couldn’t be found. These envelopes were used for sending out a uniquely large invoice, and because of this, invoices stopped going out, causing cash flow issues. 

We looked at alternates for envelopes and found a solution that saved money on both envelopes and invoices. Because this was a reactive fix, it took some time to implement, however, we were able to adjust and smooth into a new process. 

Being Proactive to Avoid Supply Chain Interruptions

Instead of being reactive, a proactive approach could have anticipated a supply chain disruption and allowed us to make changes to avoid or lessen the impact. The only way to really be proactive is to audit current processes and examine where there are potential problems, and then stay on top of those with a continuous improvement mindset. 

Looking at processes deeply helps us to understand where we currently are and what adjustments need to be made if, all of a sudden, demands increase or decrease. It allows us to make changes quickly to capture opportunities, rather than fail as we slip into holes we didn’t know existed. 

Change will always happen in business. Whether large or barely significant, they can give us space for improvement if we are open to learning. 


If you are ready to be proactive, or have found some holes now that need to be filled, that’s my expertise. PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more.