Curing Supply Chain Tunnel Vision

The San Francisco Bay area is back in the news with reports that 2014 is shaping up to be the fifth driest year in the state's history. The impact of this water scarcity is compounded by the fact that 2013 was actually the driest year on record for California.

Right about now you are probably wondering why, as a supply chain executive in the global high tech industry, I am blogging about California's weather. The answer is simple, because, as supply chain professionals, we cannot afford to have tunnel vision. Not only must we remain current on issues and trends directly relating to our business, we need to be just as attentive to broader issues that could have a ripple effect on the electronics supply chain.

Consider this: California supplies 50% of the fruits and vegetables consumed throughout the United States. Droughts can clearly devastate the agro supply chain as farmers leave many fields fallow and try to preserve the well-established long-term crops such as almonds and grapes. As it happens, these uncultivated fields can have a very direct impact on the U.S. Navy's supply chain.

Stay with me, it's about to all come together. According to a report I heard on the radio the other day, it seems that there is a fair amount of farm land surrounding Naval training bases in inland California. When these fields are barren, birds in the area that would otherwise be happily feeding on grains and seeds on the ground are more likely to be in the air trolling for new food sources. And suddenly, there is a marked increase in the number of bird strikes on F-18s running training missions. These strikes can be catastrophic, but if we just consider the nuisance factor, they can cause significant damage to the engines on these multi-million dollar jets, which leads to more expense and more unplanned demand on the supply chain.

No matter what side you come down on in the controversial climate change debate — whether it's a politically-motivated problem contrived to promote a social agenda or a true environmental time bomb — there is no denying that across the globe we continue to see historically significant levels of extreme weather. Droughts, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, tornadoes, you name it.

Members of the electronics supply chain need to remember that our influence and what impacts us extends well beyond the parameters of IC supply and logistics routes. We are all a part of the global community and in one way or another, weather, economics, political unrest, social issues, etc. that affect one industry or region will affect other industries and regions, which is why it is in our best interests to stay aware and alert.

With this as a backdrop, I encourage readers to be on the lookout for the next edition of Avnet's Supply Chain Velocity digital magazine, which should post in late April. In the upcoming issue, we discuss supply chain sustainability, not only from an environmental viewpoint, but also from a variety of angles, including financial and regulatory. These impacts affect us all differently, both personally and professionally. Change isn't inherently bad, we just need to be positioned to minimize the risks and capitalize on the opportunities.

1 comment on “Curing Supply Chain Tunnel Vision

  1. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 16, 2014

    @Wade, you make a good point about thinking more broadly about impacts. There are plenty of high-tech examples of unintended consequences when changes were made.  It's good to talk about these things. I'm looking forward to heading to the Responsible Supply Chains Conference conference later this month. I've been asked to moderate a table discussion around supply chains and job creation.  This is one way to raise awareness and get people thinking in new directions. What else do you think the supply chain industry ought to be doing to cure this tunnel vision?

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