The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just convened a meeting of health officials in Geneva to share collective knowledge, insight and experience in the fight against coronavirus.

It comes as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise. More than 1,000 people in China have died and there are hundreds of cases spanning 23 other countries.

In the UK, concerns grew further after a GP surgery and nursing home were put into temporary shutdown while across the world at least a dozen drugs companies are working on potential vaccines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that while coronavirus remains very much an emergency in China, it also holds “a very grave threat for the rest of the world, a test of our political, financial and scientific solidarity”.

Risks to the Supply Chain

So, what are the implications of a spread of coronavirus for supply chain companies across the world?

Reflecting global advice shared by our friends at the IT research and advisory firm Gartner, here are our thoughts:

It is difficult at this stage to predict the exact impact of coronavirus but if the outbreak continues to gather pace and become a pandemic, supply chain companies may have to rethink their risk management and business continuity arrangements.

There could well be shortages in materials or finished goods originating from, or passing through, affected regions.

Illness or quarantine could reduce manpower and there may be travel restrictions that curtail the ability to meet and conduct business discussions and transactions. Consumer spending habits might be impacted too.

Contingency planning

Gartner advises organisations to recognise that while the full impact of coronavirus may not hit supply chains for some time, early contingency planning is sensible.

In the short term, companies should understand where their main impacted areas and logistical hubs are geographically. They should assess the potential contractual and financial implications of not being able to source or deliver to these locations.

If there are likely to be issues, two initial steps come into play: firstly, how to manage inventory in the case of a lack of access; and secondly, what HR guidance to give to any employees based there.

While continuing to monitor news and public health advice about coronavirus, companies may need to source contingency stock from elsewhere in the world if usual supplies cannot be guaranteed.

Future preparations

Having managed any initial effects of the outbreak on the supply chain, the next stage is to take a strategic look at ongoing resilience and ask what steps may need to be taken if things get worse. Companies may wish to seek more diversity in sourcing supplies and capacity and carry out reviews of their internal risk management procedures. It’s all about being better prepared for the next impact or crisis.

To discuss your supply chain management needs and how we can help, talk to Transalis. Visit dev.transalis.com or call us on 0845 123 3476.

An article with further advice from Gartner on the coronavirus outbreak can be found at https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/coronavirus-how-to-secure-your-supply-chain/