It seems that each passing week brings our community fresh new reminders on the existence of potential risks in the supply chain as well as the upstream and downstream implications on business outcomes. This week alone, there are two additional streaming events that are capturing the interest of business media, and should capture the continued following of supply chain cross-functional teams.


In the automotive sector, a recent fire that occurred at an Evonik Industries AG manufacturing plant in Marl, Germany has had cascading impacts related to the overall global supply of nylon-12, a rare resin that is utilized in the manufacturing of fuel tanks, brake and fuel lines. Nylon-12 has been extensively used because of its superior capabilities to be highly resistant to the corrosive effects of gasoline and brake fluid.  Evonik represented over 25 percent of the global supply of the building block specialty resin that eventually makes-up nylon-12, and was also a supplier to another nylon-12 producer, Arkema SA. The Wall Street Journal reported that Evonik executives estimate that it may take more than six months before repairs can be made and production can resume.  Industry observers and participants estimate that there may be no more than one to two months of available inventory in the pipeline, causing industry wide concern, with the potential of disruption of multiple auto final assembly plants in the coming weeks.  The scope of this disruption rivals the same magnitude of the paint pigment disruption that occurred as a result of the tsunami in Japan, or the disruption of upwards of 30 percent of hard disk drive components capacity caused by the floods in Thailand.


Earlier this week, in a rare move, executives from eight separate auto producers and 50 parts suppliers met in Detroit with the purpose of drafting an alternative specification and sourcing plan in order to seek an interim replacement for nylon-12. In the spirit of six sigma crisis response, six joint membership committees were formed to develop, evaluate and fast track an industry-wide substitute. Any final outcome as to industry-wide mitigation or impacts to business results are yet to play out.


In the pharmaceutical and drug segment, Johnson and Johnson announced its Q1-2012 fiscal operating results this week which included even more stark reminders of the impacts of a combination of quality process breakdowns and supply disruptions.  J&J’s McNeill Consumer Healthcare unit, responsible for the production of brand names such as Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl, continues to deal with the impacts of cascading quality snafus and product recalls that forced the closing of an entire manufacturing facility. The unit has been operating under an FDA Consent Decree affecting 3 manufacturing plants, including the Fort Washington Pennsylvania facility which was shutdown for a complete overhaul over a year ago.  In its recent briefing to analysts, J&J executives disclosed that Fort Washington, originally planned to resume operations late this year, may not be able to resume production until 2014.


A blog commentary penned by Ed Silverman posted on the Pharmalot blog titled, Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, draws an analogy of completely renovating a gourmet kitchen to produce “a shiny new bistro ready for an Iron Chef showdown “only to discover a conundrum that the homeowner is using the same recipes geared for the older worn down kitchen. Silverman continues: “ (But) rebuilding an entire plant takes a lot of effort and tech transfer can be an imperfect science if the underlying processes were problematic in the first place.”


While all of this is occurring, McNeill sales are estimated as falling over 2 percent during this past quarter as consumers turn to alternate brands for their medication needs. J&J has also be forced to spend additional monies in market education initiatives to restore trust in its OTC brands


On the pharmaceutical side of J&J, the supply of the cancer fighting drug Doxil remains on severe allocation caused by the unexpected shutdown of J&J’s prime contract manufacturer for this drug. The result has been over an 80 percent decline in revenues of this drug.  J&J executives do not anticipate Doxil to be available until late 2012 while restoring a reliable supply of the drug remains “our most urgent priority.” J&J further indicated that it was pursuing both longer-term as well as shorter-term options to restore supply.


So what can readers’ takeaway from these latest reminders of unplanned disruption and impacts on business results. 


·      First, identification and early warning visibility to disruptive and costly supply risk must be extended to multiple tiers of the supply chain. 


·      Efforts of cost control directed at consolidating suppliers must also factor important considerations of sole supply risk.


·      When an incident occurs that has the potential to severely impact upstream and downstream supply and/or demand, marshal required cross functional and cross-business resources and get all pertinent information into the process of mitigation response. Physically rebuilding or overhauling a plant or contract manufacturing facility or production line must also include a re-visit of underlying process, technology, people and decision-making processes that are attached.


Supply chain risk mitigation is not a singular supply chain process, it is rather an enterprise-wide response to a significant business problem.


Bob Ferrari


©2012 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters blog.  All rights reserved.