Resilient supply chains can’t be achieved without robust investments, but not all spending has the same impact. More than half of the interviewees indicated that creating safety stock and maintaining idle production capacity can increase resilience but aren’t always cost-effective solutions. Supply chain investments should address the root cause of concrete issues, rather than perceived concerns with supply chain performance. For example, several leaders we interviewed made costly investments to build safety stock after experiencing what they thought was inadequate inventory at certain points of use. However, there was sufficient inventory in the system. Without visibility into on-hand inventory throughout the supply chain, they couldn’t see that inventory was depleted in some locations and well-stocked elsewhere.
Spending strategically on resilience is critical as innovative solutions, such as artificial intelligence–enabled automation, have implementation costs. Without sufficient spending on resilience, an organization can only implement point solutions to address individual supply chain issues. Our research determined that robust spending is required to layer capabilities with individual solutions to improve enterprise agility and responsiveness and drive overall resilience.
Organizations that target their spending to solve concrete challenges can see greater resilience. These investments should be focused on resolving the root cause of supply chain problems, rather than aligning to perceived concerns with supply chain performance. For instance, we interviewed multiple organizations that were operating in the “inefficient zone” and were experiencing inventory shortages. To address the lack of on-hand inventory, they built new warehouses to store more safety stock. However, supply shortages continued at various front-line points of use because the new warehouses didn’t address the root cause of the supply shortages. There was sufficient inventory in the system, but the organizations lacked visibility into on-hand inventory throughout their supply chain. Inventory was depleted in some locations and well-stocked elsewhere, and data quality issues exposed inaccurate counts of inventory.
Rather than increasing warehouse space, the organizations should have invested in control towers and inventory management solutions. This strategy could increase end-to-end supply chain visibility, enabling the organizations to proactively respond to internal and external disruptions to mitigate supply shortages.
Regardless of their size, all health care organizations have limited resources given the industry’s focus on cost reduction and the perpetual existence of narrow margins among health systems. However, when determining spending priorities, some leaders can leverage their organization’s size to drive resilience. Large organizations we interviewed have more resources to invest and can better withstand lulls in revenue during supply disruptions. Conversely, large organizations experienced roadblocks like greater bureaucracy to gain approvals for investment and implementation. While the smaller organizations we interviewed had limited buying power and less mature supply chains, they had greater agility. Leveraging smaller organizations’ ability to quickly pivot and fulfill short-term requirements during volatile demand periods is key to responding to supply chain disruptions and catastrophic events.
Make an organizationwide commitment to resilience
Our research found that the commitment to resilience should start with leadership buy-in and extend to managers and front-line personnel, a more critical lever than technology. In a 2021 survey conducted by Deloitte and the Scottsdale Institute, 80% of participants said that leadership is a key accelerator of digital transformation, more than any other option.5 In fact, an organization’s leadership-driven vision to build a resilient supply chain may falter without buy-in from staff to implement revised policies and operational changes. Having the entire organization’s support is even more important as health care organizations shift their focus away from cost reductions and other supply chain priorities that have been in place for decades.
To build more resilient supply chains and enable short-term agility, leaders should consider empowering and challenging their supply chain teams to think outside the box. For instance, we interviewed an organization in the “point-solution zone” that proved resilient during the pandemic by completely changing its go-to-market strategy from business-to-business (B2B) to business-to-consumer (figure 1). This agility was possible due to leadership support and the organization’s quick realization that maintaining the existing B2B strategy wouldn’t be sufficient to maintain resilience during the pandemic, given drastic reductions in existing client spending.
A common theme among the interviews was the need for supply chain leaders to have a permanent seat at the table to help ensure an organizationwide commitment to resilience. Supply chain leaders should play an integral part in crafting the enterprise strategy as an overall organization can’t be resilient without a differentiated supply chain. Supply chain team members should be integrated into day-to-day operational activities to help ensure that supply chain capabilities meet changing patient and consumer expectations as technology drives changes to health care delivery.