The one year anniversary of the tragic earthquake and tsunami that impacted northern Japan was by many accounts a game changing event for global supply chains. In a recent Supply Chain Expert Community blog posting, blogger Jim Fulcher makes mention of recent research findings from the Business Continuity Institute indicating that one year after, 82 percent of companies that reported supply chain disruption have confirmed some changes to their supply chain strategy, with 12 percent indicating significant changes implement. 


The notion that no company is immune to such risks, even one that has incredible influence and buying power was brought forward last week in conjunction with the announcement from Apple of its latest generation iPad tablet computer. The Wall Street Journal featured an article that extracted from two individual teardown analysis of the new iPad performed by firms UBM TechInsights and IHS iSuppli. The UBM analysis “found components with the same functions made by at least three manufacturers in different tablets.” Specifically, Apple has multiple tablet production sources for device memory and high-resolution display. NAND flash memory came from Micron Technology, Hynix Semiconductor along with Toshiba Corporation, a previous high volume supplier of memory for Apple iPhones. The new highly touted iPad high resolution displays were determined to be sourced from Samsung Electronics, LG Display and another company not conclusively identified.


While the strategy may not be a surprise for those who may know of Apple’s internal supply chain practices, the fact that a diversified sourcing strategy is expanding is another indication of the new importance of active supply chain mitigation has become. UBM and the WSJ both noted that the breath of suppliers is one of the most notable elements of the recent teardown of the next generation iPad and further speculate that the reason may be a sign that Apple is more actively practicing supply risk mitigation because of the past Japan and other disruptive incidents.  A glance at the suppliers of mention also triggers the thought that each supplier’s main operations are located in different geographic regions.


On Supply Chain Matters we recently dwelled on the one year anniversary and noted specific actions that automotive manufacturers Toyota and Nissan have implemented as a result of learning from the recent quake. Toyota alone discovered that approximately 300 production locations could be at risk and has now asked these specific suppliers to implement risk mitigation measures. Last week, Automotive lessons learned from the Japan quake apply to other sectors, too! that if often takes a significant event to make all of the organization sensitized to the importance of assessing supply chain risk and developing risk mitigation strategies.  Jim also argues that supply chain risk management should be integrated under the umbrella of the Sales and Operations (S&OP) planning process because of its current scope, process frequency and data utilized to make decisions.   This author happens to agree with Jim and encourages our community to have a dialogue of its own regarding this important topic.


What we are now beginning to understand is that even Apple, the largest global supply chain influencer, who managed to come through the Japan tsunami and later Thailand floods incidents relatively unscathed, has implemented discernable supply chain risk mitigation.  The takeaway for all others is that like other areas of supply chain capability, the gap among leaders and laggards continues to widen, and supply chain risk mitigation is another critical capability within this gap.


Once again, are you educating and influencing your senior management to the need for more active risk management identification and mitigation strategies? 


Do you believe that this responsibility falls under the umbrella of supply chain management, as opposed to finance or enterprise risk management?


Do you view the S&OP process as a natural extension to inclusion of supply chain risk mitigation?


One year is a long time in the current dynamic clock speed of business.


Bob Ferrari