Get talking: How strong communication can strengthen your supply chain

If you experienced metal supply chain disruptions in 2020, you’re not alone. As a result of COVID-19, many businesses across a wide range of industries found it difficult to find the metal they needed, when they needed it.

But while the global pandemic is (hopefully) nearing the end of its run, the risk of future supply chain disruptions isn’t going anywhere. In the coming years, anything from a natural disaster to a trade war could leave you scrambling for metal once again. The key, then, is to safeguard your business now so it will be strong enough to withstand any metal supply chain disruptions in the future.

Bolstering your communication efforts is one way to do that. When you maintain open channels of communication with your suppliers, it becomes easier to plan for a future disruption—or identify potential red flags before they become full-blown issues.

Understanding this, here are a few things you can do in 2021 to protect your business moving forward:


  1.   Become a proactive buyer. The best way to stay ahead of potential supply chain issues is by insisting on regular updates. By scheduling regular meetings with your service center, you’ll gain insight into market pricing and supply chain availability. Through these conversations, for instance, you may learn about a mill closure or transportation challenge that is expected to negatively impact your lead times or supply—which, in turn, will give you a little additional time to adapt and ultimately mitigate the risk.


  1.   Get thinking about the unthinkable. While specific supply chain issues are nearly impossible to predict, it’s still critical to have a semblance of a backup plan in place. Ideally, it’s wise to sit down with your service center ahead of time to figure out which materials or mills could be used as alternatives in the event of a drastic event.


  1.   Conduct a service center SWOT analysis. A good service center can help you with much more than your buying processes. It can also help you strengthen your overall business. By getting operations, purchasing, receiving and payables in the same room with your service center rep, you can work together to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—and identify areas of concern and improvement to help you weather supply chain issues in the future.


Looking forward

As we’ve learned over the last year, a streamlined supply chain can make a huge difference when disaster strikes, but its benefits don’t end there. By strengthening communication with your service center and implementing the proper processes, you can eliminate operational redundancies and financial inefficiencies which, in turn, can help you make the most of the good times, too.