Risk Analysis Will Drive Better Decisions Across the Supply Chain
Written by Randy Heffernan, Palisade Corporation
The lack of extensive risk analysis performed in the supply chain will continue to be detrimental to efficiency. As supply chains expand globally, their risk of disruption also grows. Catastrophic events, such as the Japanese earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, have highlighted the need for analysis of disruption risk and development of mitigation plans to cope with that risk.
Trends such as globalisation, heavy reliance on transportation and communication infrastructures, and lean manufacturing have led to an increase in the vulnerability of supply networks. Points on the supply chain are interrelated, causing these vulnerabilities to propagate rapidly.
More and more organisations around the world, however, are turning their eyes away from decision-making processes based on single point estimates and viewing their risks and opportunities with more sophisticated techniques.
One such technique, Monte Carlo simulation (MCS), allows the examination of all the possible outcomes of decisions and assesses the impact of risk, allowing for better decision making under uncertainty. It is a computerised mathematical technique that allows the business modeler to account for risk in quantitative analysis and decision making. MCS furnishes the decision-maker with a range of possible outcomes and the probabilities they will occur for any choice of action.
Managers need to be able to answer questions like: “What is the probability this critical part will arrive on time?” and “What are the chances of failure at this point in the process?” This approach allows decision makers to perform trade-off analysis among expected costs, quality acceptance levels, and on-time delivery distributions. It also provides alternative tools to evaluate and improve supplier selection decisions in an uncertain supply chain environment.
Risk analysis utilising Monte Carlo Simulation assists organisations that rely heavily on supply chain efficiency to forecast any number of potential obstacles that could cause a disruption in continuity. Additionally, knowledge of the probability that those risks may occur further empowers decision-makers to formulate contingency plans, meet customer demand on time, and ultimately increase bottom line profitability.
Randy Heffernan is Vice President of Palisade Corporation, a global software developer that produces decision support tools for professionals in many lines of work. The company was founded in 1984, and at present more than 400,000 people use Palisade’s software in fields that range from finance to oil and mineral exploration, real estate to heavy manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals to aerospace. Its software is used by many Fortune 500 companies, including Shell Oil, Procter & Gamble, ExxonMobil, Chase Manhattan, and by prominent economic and financial consultants.
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector