Guide to Building a More Resilient Supply Chain

Improving supply chain resiliency is now a must for any shipper, especially those with high-value, high-demand products coming from multiple locations around the world. Companies with resilient global supply chains are more likely to have goods available when they need them, and better able to continue serving customers even when disruptions strike.


Research suggests that increasing resilience will be a top priority for many shippers as they recover from global disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CSCMP’s 2020 Supply Chain Innovation Survey, 75% of respondents said their companies will be making changes to supply chain practices based on lessons learned from the pandemic.

This guide focuses on some key investments and focus areas that shippers should consider to improve global supply chain resiliency.

You Will Learn:

Why Resiliency is a top priority

Disruptions have always been a part of supply chains, so what’s making shippers prioritize resiliency now?

Increased globalization and complexity: Global commerce is rapidly adding complexity to the supply chain and magnifying the impact of disruptions. Problems that used to be isolated to a region can have far-reaching impacts on many supply chains, especially those that are lean and global.

New sources of disruption: Supply chain disruptions are coming from new sources and at a more rapid pace. According to a Gartner survey, 76% of supply chain professionals say disruptive changes have increased compared to three years ago, and 72% agree that these disruptions have become more impactful.

Focus on customer experience: Supply chain execution, or lack thereof, plays a key role in the customer experience. Customers depend on greater speed, visibility, quality, and consistency. Additionally, customers have more choices than ever, so a poor experience could result in the decision to purchase from your competitors.

Exponential growth of data: There is more data today across the supply chain than ever before. Some statistics suggest that 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years. By capturing this information in an efficient and effective way, shippers can harness data to build predictive models that improve resiliency throughout their supply chain. Disruptions have always been a part of supply chains, so what’s making shippers prioritize resiliency now?

How to Build a More Resilient Supply Chain

Before the next disruption strikes, there are steps and investments you can make to protect your bottom line and become more agile and responsive. Start by prioritizing these key areas:

Invest in technology and digital capabilities

Technology that provides centralized supply chain visibility, automation, and predictive analytics on a global scale is a key capability to achieving resiliency. Companies that have these capabilities may still get disrupted, but their ability to see and react to changes faster lessens the impact and leads to faster recoveries.

To improve resiliency and agility, shippers should specifically look for tools that provide the following:

  1. Real-time visibility
    • See your supply chain globally visualized, including all inventory at rest or in motion, across all modes and regions.
    • Proactively track, monitor, and react to disruptions before they occur through integrations from external data sources like weather, traffic, and current events.
  2. Predictive analytics and machine learning
    • Turn data into business intelligence that reveals actionable insights.
    • Spot shipments that are trending toward committed delivery dates and recognize which ones are at risk for late delivery.
  3. Control Tower® connectivity
    • Streamline communication and connectivity across logistics providers, and improve performance through Control Tower networks, connected by a single technology platform.
  4. Internet of Things (IoT) integrations
    • Take monitoring and tracking to the next level with IoT devices that can measure and monitor elements in your shipments like shock, light, and temperature.
    • Monitor and be alerted to potential spoilage, damages, or tampering, with the goal of mitigating and recovering from the issue immediately.

Update your risk management and scenario plans

An effective risk management plan should include:

Supplier awareness: Identify the relative strength of your core suppliers. Keep your senior management aware of potential risks, since these vulnerabilities can have an impact on decisions regarding where to source, manufacture, and market products.

Accountability: Spell out the responsibilities of regional offices and third-party providers. Developing and promoting a plan will contribute to vendor selection criteria—and help all parties understand the expectations for communication and response.

Scorecards: Evaluate both in-house and contracted supply chain providers through scorecarding. The scorecards will help everyone understand which capabilities and responsibilities are most critical. Scorecards should balance risk mitigation, contract, and response capabilities.

Quarterly reviews: Suppliers and in-house operations should be reviewed quarterly for their handling of incidents to promote proactive risk monitoring. Data collected before and during these reviews will likely contribute to the strengthening of future risk management planning.

Visual mapping: A visual map of all transportation routes, with identified risks called out as “hot spots,” promotes a greater understanding and assessment of risk. By monitoring weather events, political unrest, and other elements of risk and visually displaying them on a global map, shippers can develop highly effective prevention and response plans.

5 elements of effective logistics contingency plans

  1. Scenarios for different levels of threats
  2. Communications plan with contingency team in place
  3. Cost analyses that include expediting and freight diversion costs
  4. Back up suppliers for key commodities
  5. Proactive reviews with contingency team

Secure global talent

While technology investments remain a top priority, people will always be an important part of supply chains. Technology has the greatest value when the people operating it understand all its intricate details and systems.

The shortage of supply chain talent has been a key issue within the industry for some time, and it can be challenging for companies to find and retain these in demand experts. When you choose a TMS provider that offers managed services, you can rely on them for the people-plus-technology approach, so you gain instant access to consistent supply chain talent who act as an extension of your team. As a result, you tap into the technical and strategic knowledge required to unlock the true potential of the TMS and maintain a reliable, steady team of resources.

Resiliency vs. lean: How to find the right balance

Supply chains today are being tasked with becoming more global, complex, and multi-channel while also being pressured to reduce resources and spend. But when it comes to supply chain efficiencies, how lean is too lean? As well-known brands have suffered through some very public service disruptions in recent years, that question has gained renewed attention in corporate boardrooms. Complete redundancy is cost-prohibitive, but some redundant stock, systems, and resources can help avoid the waste of system breakdown if a disaster occurs, even in a highly efficient supply chain.

5 barriers to resilient supply chains*:

  1. Product and portfolio complexity
  2. Balancing trade-offs between cost-efficiency and resilience/ risk mitigation
  3. Organizational silos and contrasting metrics across different functions
  4. Investment costs (e.g. qualifying alternate suppliers, duplicate tooling)
  5. Lack of advanced digital technologies for increased visibility and coordination

Here are ways that a global TMS can help address competing priorities of achieving lean cost savings, while also delivering high customer satisfaction through supply chain resiliency.

Cost management: Achieve savings through optimizations and automation around procurement, audit/ pay accuracy, fine reduction, and more. Power users maximize the benefits of the technology, reducing the need to add and train headcount. In addition, shippers can take advantage of the industry expertise offered by providers of managed services who are well versed in risk management and contingency planning.

Visibility and business intelligence: A panoramic view of your entire supply chain with details for every shipment worldwide brings new agility, accuracy, and insight to critical transportation and logistics decisions. Platforms that have integration with real-time data feeds—including weather, traffic, socio-economic disruptions, and other factors—help optimize decision modeling, risk analysis, and other critical supply chain processes.

Demand forecast planning: Better understand demand patterns by seeing a clearer picture of freight flows at local, regional, and global levels, leading to improved workforce planning at your sites and collaborative shipment planning with material vendors. This can also make it possible to respond immediately to marketplace changes or disruptions—including sudden spikes in demand.

* Source: Gartner, Future of Supply Chain: Crisis Shapes the Profession, December 2020

About TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Global supply chains are growing increasingly complex. Businesses need the latest technology and industry expertise to advance and stay ahead of the competition. At TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson, we understand what makes supply chains faster, stronger, and more efficient. As a leader in global logistics management, we combine industry expertise with our global technology platform, Navisphere®, to support the world’s most complex supply chains. Our logistics experts are located in Control Tower® locations around the world: Amsterdam, Chicago, Monterrey, São Paulo, Seattle, Shanghai, and Wrocław. This Control Tower® network, supported by our technology platform, connects our customers to their suppliers and supply chain partners. Our customers leverage these capabilities to manage their logistics in over 170 countries across all modes of transportation.

To learn more, visit