Interpreting Resilience: An Examination of the Use of Resiliency Strategies within the Supply Chain and Consequences for the Freight Transportation System

Abstract - With continued increases in trade volumes, lengthening of supply chains due to globalization, and an increased focus on disruptions, resiliency has become an issue of concern within the supply chain community. Resiliency is formally defined as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or disruption. For this research and within the supply chain community, resiliency also includes the ability to avoid disruptions. In the past, resiliency has been discussed in nebulous terms, typically focusing on the overall concept of resiliency, past resiliency successes and failures, and generalized frameworks and flowcharts to help assess risk and mitigate for it. Absent is the discussion of how companies perceive resiliency and by what methods are they currently integrating resiliency strategies into supply chain and goods movement policies. This research explores and evaluates resiliency efforts, focusing on the goods movement within the supply chain, currently being used in practice by importing companies. Additionally, the information gathered in this research may be utilized to improve resiliency within freight transportation systems. Through a series of eleven interviews with personnel responsible for transportation and supply chain activities and operations, information was gathered to understand how companies are attempting to improve the resiliency within their supply chain in the face of increasing vulnerabilities. Responses to questions about resiliency, vulnerabilities, disruptions, and disruption procedures were used to identify fifteen resiliency strategies which were categorized as enablers or strategic resiliency strategies. Enablers, such as communication, relationships, and use of information and technology, were identified as ways to increase the effectiveness of other resiliency efforts and are often an integral part of supply chain operations prior to concerns about resiliency. Strategic resiliency strategies, including using expedited transportation, using multiple ports and/or carriers to move goods, becoming C-TPAT certified, and delivering during off-peak hours, are typically part of a long term plan of action, but are often implemented on a day to day or as needed basis. Both enablers and strategic resiliency strategies result in the reduction of exposure to supply chain disruptions and/or the mitigation of disruption impacts. Relationships between the strategies are revealed, highlighting the importance of enablers as a means of promoting the success of many other reported resiliency strategies. The strategies used by a given company are often a reflection of the company’s current exposure to risk, and therefore experience with resiliency. For example, companies with existing supply uncertainty have already implemented resiliency strategies to mitigate the impact of sourcing difficulty. Examination of resiliency strategies as a means to reduce exposure to supply chain disruptions has shown that the use of these strategies helps spread the risk of disruptions, either geographically, temporally, or across personnel. In addition to improving resiliency, many identified strategies can provide an added value to supply chains, improving operations and efficiency on a daily basis. This research provides a summary of existing strategies, but also presents a framework for discussing resilience in terms of enablers and strategies. Enablers, which allow a company to improve resilience, are the nebulous concepts often associated with resilience such as flexibility and communication. The strategies are specific actions that can have a measurable impact on an enterprise’s ability to tolerate disruptions. Understanding the implications of employing various resiliency strategies can assist companies in making strategic decisions which are in the best interest of a resilient and successful supply chain. The research also discusses how knowledge of these strategies can assist freight transportation system planners, designers, and managers in improving system resilience for the benefit of all users.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-28

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