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Ship Stuck in Suez Canal Exposes Supply Chain Vulnerability

Business continuity sometimes means supply chain continuity.

The drama of the ship stuck in the Suez Canal has played out on the news cycles for over a week now. One week does not seem to be that long, but in supply chain terms, it can be an eternity. The warehouses of the past are gone and “just in time” delivery of goods and parts is essential in the way companies have chosen to operate today — on the edge.

See this Forbes article: “Blocked Suez Canal Is Latest Reminder Why Companies Need Crisis Plans.”

There really isn’t anything new about the issue we’ve watched grow on our television screens over the past seven days. What is somewhat new is how businesses and countries are reacting to the slowing of global transport of goods by ship. Syria imposed fuel rationing due to the shortage. Manufacturers are shutting down production lines due to parts not being available. A week of disruption is not an eternity, but when you are sitting idle and time is money, it can seem to be an eternity. 

Like always, the question is, will companies learn something from the experience, or as the ships start traversing the canal again, will it all just be a painful memory that is hoped will not be repeated? If you don’t want it to be repeated, then you need to rethink your supply chain resilience and maybe put some redundancy into the system. Some still consider redundancy to just be duplication, but when you need the flex in your system, the pennies spent in redundancy can pay big dividends.  

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.