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Navigating supply chain risks: Strategies for today's challenges

Apr 24, 2024 - Alyssa Wolfe
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Navigating supply chain risks | Supply chain strategies |


In the supply chain, disruptions happen. Whether it’s trade corridor issues, geopolitical tensions, new regulations, shortages, natural disasters or something else, disruptions have widespread impacts on operations, profitability and customer satisfaction. By proactively addressing potential risks, companies can minimize the likelihood of disruptions and mitigate their impact when they occur, maintaining continuity and resilience in their operations. When brands don’t adequately manage supply chain risks, it can lead to delays, increased costs, reputational damage and loss of market share, highlighting the importance of strategic risk management.

Common supply chain risks

An estimated 356 billion packages shipped worldwide in 2023; projections indicate that 498 billion packages will ship in 2028. The supply chain is the system behind the production and delivery of these packages. This complex network includes producers, suppliers, vendors, transportation companies, warehouses and distribution centers. With so many working parts, a breakdown in any component poses a risk to retailers. Some common supply chain risks include:

Disruptions in transportation and logistics

Transportation and logistics disruptions create significant challenges for businesses across industries, impacting the timely movement of goods. One of the most notable challenges is delays resulting from adverse weather conditions, traffic congestion or unexpected events like accidents or labor strikes. These delays can disrupt supply chain schedules, leading to missed deadlines and increased costs due to expedited shipping.

Capacity constraints are another pressing issue, particularly during peak seasons or periods of heightened demand. Limited capacity in transportation modes such as trucking or shipping can result in delays in securing transportation services, forcing companies to seek alternative solutions to meet their delivery commitments. In addition, the rising transportation costs further intensify the situation. Fuel prices, driver shortages and regulatory changes drive these costs.


To address these challenges, brands are building resilience in transportation and logistics operations. This includes diversifying transportation modes and leveraging multiple options such as trucking, rail, air freight and intermodal transportation to mitigate the risks associated with any single mode. By diversifying their transportation networks, companies can better navigate capacity constraints and minimize the impact of disruptions in any specific mode.

Another tactic is implementing real-time tracking technologies, which enables companies to monitor the movement of goods throughout the supply chain and proactively identify potential delays or issues. With real-time visibility into shipment status and location, businesses can make informed decisions to reroute shipments, adjust delivery schedules or communicate effectively with customers about potential delays.

Forging strategic partnerships with reliable carriers is essential for building resilience in transportation and logistics. By collaborating closely with trusted transportation providers, companies can access dedicated capacity, priority service and preferential treatment during times of disruption. These partnerships facilitate smoother coordination and communication, allowing brands to respond swiftly to challenges and maintain continuity in their supply chain operations.

Supplier reliability and disruptions

Supplier reliability is crucial for ensuring streamlined and efficient supply chains. However, it remains vulnerable to several risks that can disrupt sourcing activities. Supplier failures, whether due to financial insolvency, operational issues or production constraints, can seriously affect downstream operations, leading to delays, shortages and increased costs. Quality issues with suppliers can also compromise product integrity and brand reputation, further exacerbating the impact of disruptions. Geopolitical events such as trade disputes, political instability or natural disasters in key sourcing regions can also disrupt the flow of materials and components, causing supply chain disruptions and exposing businesses to supply shortages and price volatility.


To mitigate these risks, diversify suppliers to reduce reliance on single sources and spread risk across multiple suppliers or geographic regions. A robust supplier vetting process helps ensure suppliers meet stringent quality and performance standards, minimizing the likelihood of quality issues or disruptions. Moreover, contingency planning develops alternative sourcing strategies and builds resilience into supply chains to adapt to unforeseen events and maintain continuity of supply quickly.

Demand volatility and forecasting errors

Demand volatility and forecasting errors lead to inventory imbalances, stockouts or excess inventory. Fluctuating consumer preferences, seasonality, promotions and market uncertainties make it difficult to accurately predict demand. Inaccurate forecasts can result in missed sales opportunities and increased costs, negatively impacting customer satisfaction.


Leveraging analytics and forecasting tools can help improve the accuracy of demand predictions. These tools analyze historical sales data, market trends and external factors to generate more reliable forecasts. Demand sensing technologies enable real-time monitoring of market signals and consumer behavior, allowing companies to adjust production and inventory levels accordingly. Agile inventory management strategies, such as dynamic safety stock adjustments and flexible supply chain configurations, also help mitigate the impact of demand volatility by enabling rapid responses to changing market conditions.

Cybersecurity threats

In 2023, supply chain cyber attacks in the U.S. impacted 2,769 entities. Cybersecurity supply chain threats result in data breaches, ransomware attacks and disruptions to operations. Supply chain vulnerabilities, such as reliance on third-party vendors and interconnected systems, increase the likelihood of cyber incidents. These threats can result in data theft, financial losses, reputational damage and even regulatory penalties.


Businesses must implement robust cybersecurity protocols across their supply chain networks. This involves adopting encryption technologies, multi-factor authentication and access controls to safeguard sensitive data and systems. Regular audits and assessments of IT infrastructure and third-party vendors help identify potential vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with cybersecurity standards. In addition, employee training programs on cybersecurity best practices raise awareness about common threats, phishing scams and social engineering tactics, empowering staff to recognize and respond to security incidents effectively.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters cause supply chain disruptions that impact production, transportation and distribution networks. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and wildfires can damage infrastructure, halt operations and lead to inventory shortages. Climate-related disruptions, including extreme weather patterns and environmental degradation, further affect supply chain risks, highlighting the importance of resilience and sustainability.


Businesses must prioritize business continuity planning and risk management strategies. This includes conducting supply chain mapping exercises to identify vulnerable areas, assess potential risks and develop contingency plans for alternative sourcing and distribution channels. Brands can also implement sustainable sourcing practices, such as diversifying suppliers and investing in renewable energy sources, enhancing the resilience of the supply chain and reducing environmental impacts.

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Strategies for mitigating supply chain risks

The best way to handle supply chain risks is to plan ahead to minimize any impact. By diversifying your supply chain and creating processes to address potential events, you are better able to mitigate risks and challenges.

Take these steps to develop strategies and best practices for mitigating supply chain risks:

  • Conduct risk assessment and planning: Perform comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and threats throughout the supply chain. Develop robust risk management plans that outline proactive measures to mitigate identified risks and ensure business continuity.
  • Collaborate and communicate: Establish strong strategic partnerships and encourage collaboration among supply chain stakeholders to share information and resources. Implement effective communication channels for timely response and coordination during disruptive events.
  • Adopt technology solutions: Leverage advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and predictive analytics to enhance supply chain visibility and risk prediction capabilities. Integrate digital tools and platforms to automate risk monitoring, alerting and decision-making processes.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable: Build flexibility into supply chain processes and operations to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and unforeseen disruptions. Develop agile strategies such as alternative sourcing, dynamic routing and inventory optimization to mitigate risks and maintain operational resilience.
  • Continuously monitor and improve: Create a culture of continuous improvement by regularly evaluating and refining risk management strategies based on lessons learned and emerging threats. Embrace a proactive approach to risk management that prioritizes ongoing monitoring, scenario planning and adaptation to evolving supply chain dynamics. for streamlined fulfillment operations

The supply chain is critical to your business. Being able to depend on it, even in the face of significant challenges, is essential. The services and solutions you use play an enormous role in mitigating supply chain risks – and your success. Contact our team of experts today to see how our omnichannel fulfillment services and tech solutions can help you create a flexible, adaptable and resilient supply chain.

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