These days, technology has allowed even the smallest businesses eclipse the boundaries of global trade and serve a broader, even international, customer base. But no matter how new or seasoned you are to the realities of international business operations—whether you’re just starting to go global or extending an already established international reach—your supply chain risk mitigation should start at home.
Supply chain issues and inefficiencies with your domestic partners which have a direct, and major, impact on your domestic operations can produce an amplified effect when hopping borders. A solid prevention strategy or solution could benefit your foreign branches a great deal, just as an unchecked red flag could alternately be devastating. Consider the following ways to recognize and support the connections between your international branches and your domestic supply chain.
Plan (Ahead) for Failures
Logistics Viewpoints' Chris O'Brien reminds us that the mantra of supply chain risk mitigation has a fair amount in common with the motorcyclist's safety creed: It's not "if" there will be a problem, but when.
You may already have a mitigation plan in place for the disruption to your domestic operations, but if you haven't considered how those lines intersect with your international business, it's not a complete plan. Are local alternatives available for the materials or products used by your international staff, or does their sourcing begin and end with your single domestic provider? If you have alternate US-based suppliers waiting in the wings, are they willing and able to shoulder the demands of your non-domestic components as well?
During or after a supply chain disruption isn't the time to make and fix these discoveries, so ask the hard supply questions now to save your company stress and costs in a future emergency.
Do You Know What They Know?
Collaboration is important—whether it's between offices down the hall or across the country. If your international staff isn't kept in the loop in terms of supply partner shortages and domestic flexibility, they can't make informed decisions in their own countries, and your international customers may not be satisfied in turn. Mark Royal and Mel Stark of Fortune emphasize that collaboration is key for developing supply chain risk mitigation in cross-border businesses, as is building a relatable and consistent company culture for guidance.
Your internationally-based employees are also an invaluable resource for determining fully landed costs, according to Stephanie Miles in Supply Chain Digest. The quotes you receive from transportation professionals in another country may not, for example, overtly include country-specific tariffs and fees that would otherwise knock them out of the running for the lowest bid. When you make it a practice to regularly consult local staff on the best providers in their area, you won't have to wonder if you're getting the whole financial story.
Link Up and Sync Up
Coordinating workflows across the miles, time zones and unique country cultures can be challenging, but those who dedicate effort to it are rewarded with a powerful, connected workforce. Timing product launches with extra shipment time leeway for the international version will allow you to launch in several countries at once, seamlessly. Employees working during daylight hours in another country may spot a potential website or transportation issue overnight, allowing them to sound the alarm and direct attention to it as soon as your domestic workforce clocks in. Cloud storage and computing products make working in teams easier than ever, and your brainstorming sessions can benefit from foreign viewpoints with the click of a mouse.
While a certain amount of autonomy is to be expected in a distant office, making efforts towards connection and collaboration will help remind everyone on your team that they're working towards the same overarching goals.
Supply chain risk mitigation is as much about keeping in touch with your entire workforce as it is anticipating transportation or manufacturing disruptions. The right balance of the two will keep you in control of business operations, well-informed and resilient enough to weather anything Murphy's Law might send your way.