CIPS: supply chain disruption raises manufacturing pressures
Recent survey conducted by CIPS between February 11 and February 23, identified that “the upturn of the UK manufacturing sector was constrained by supply chain disruption and rising cost pressures,” as a result this kept “output growth only marginal despite a modest improvement in new order intakes.”
“The UK manufacturing sector was again hit by supply chain issues, COVID-19 restrictions, stalling exports, input shortages and rising cost pressures in February. Look past the headline PMI and the survey reveals near stagnant production, widespread shipping and port delays and confusion following the end of the Brexit transition period. In fact the biggest contributor to the headline PMI reading was a near-record lengthening of supplier delivery times,” commented Rob Dobson, Director at IHS Markit.
Key survey findings
- Seasonally adjusted, the IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index® (PMI®) rose to 55.1 in February, which was up from 54.1 in January
- Business optimism rose to a 77-month high in February, 63% of organisations reported expectations that output would be higher in a year’s time, this attitude was linked to the continuous recovery from the pandemic
- For the fourth month in a row work backlogs continue to increase
- For the second month in a row employment rose at its quickest pace since June 2018
“With current constraints likely to continue for the foreseeable future, pressure on prices and output volumes may remain a feature during the coming months. That said, improved domestic demand as lockdown restrictions ease and a further rise in manufacturers' optimism are reasons to hope brighter times are on the horizon, and have already supported a modest rebound in staffing levels since the turn of the year,” added Dobson.
Primary drivers of rising costs in manufacturing
Identified in the survey CIPS discovered that the primary drivers of the rising costs in manufacturing were supply chain disruptions and raw material shortages.
- Average vendor lead times have lengthened to one of the greatest extents in the survey’s 30 year history
- More than 64% of organisations have reported higher purchase prices
- Almost 59% experienced supplier delivery delays
“Only the pincer movement of rising costs and supply chain disruptions in the manufacturing sector prevented higher growth in February as mounting optimism amongst manufacturers raised hopes of an imminent future recovery. Stronger pipelines of work from home and overseas impacted strained supply chains with delivery times rocketing to some of the highest levels since records began. This disorder was primarily created by shipping delays, transportation shortages and customs border commotion. Though it was difficult to see clearly where covid disruption ended and the Brexit muddle began as businesses on both sides of the Channel struggled with additional administrative burdens,” commented Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS).
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.