It Shouldn’t Be Hard to Justify Investments in Risk Avoidance

But if it still is, despite the enormous losses that many firms have sustained in recent years as a result of mega-disasters, a recent article over on Supply Chain @ MIT on Justifying Investments in Risk Avoidance by Yossi Sheffi (author of The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage) provides you a good starting point.

The article outlines three possible approaches for presenting a convincing case for investments in supply chain resilience.

Approach 1: ID Situations Where Resilience is a By-Product

Some actions taken by business will increase resilience even though the objective is entirely different. Examples include investments to insure superior service, postpone production (to adapt to market shifts), and adapt to different (raw) materials and components if the current primary (raw) material or component becomes unavailable. If another business justification can be made for the investment that will be looked upon more favourably by the C-Suite, focus on that justification (and that justification alone).

Approach 2: Highlight Other Benefits

If the investment is, or will be, primarily to support resilience and no business case can be made without mentioning resilience, be sure to highlight any and all additional benefits the business can expect to receive. For example, if the investment in resilience will improve operational efficiency, provide additional capability, or even improve the image of the organization it will be worth it. The example Sheffi provides is that of Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that manages flow of supplies in crisis situations. Many days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Wal-Mart had prepared 45 trucks full of critical supplies at its distribution center in Brookhaven, Mississippi. By deploying these trucks Wall-Mart reopened 66% of its stores in the affected area within 48 hours, and within one week 93% of stores were reopened. This boosted Walmart’s image in a way nor advertising campaign ever could!

In addition, a resilience effort that maps the supply chain, at least for critical goods and services, down to the raw material suppliers not only supports quicker responses to crises, but can also be used to support social responsibility and sustainability audits. Not a money-maker by any stretch of the imagination, but it can do wonders for the brand if you can show that your supply chain is, for example, free of conflict diamonds when your competition’s supply chain is not.

Approach 3: Hitch Resilience to Other Goals

In this approach, when you cannot find another justification or highlight the benefits enough to get approval, you take on the role of a PR spin doctor and show how the effort can contribute to another, sometimes entirely unrelated, goal. The example given by Sheffi in this case is if you need most, or all, of your staff to be able to telecommute in the event of a crisis, present the project to support this as a diversity and inclusion initiative that would allow mothers to stay with their babies and empower disabled employees to stay active. It’s not an optimal approach by any means, but if the shoe fits …

It’s good advice from a great article. And for those of you in logistics, Sheffi recently published Logistics Clusters: Delivering Value and Driving Growth that you might want to check out. (Clusters can also be a form of resilience.)