Pandemic has prompted businesses to focus on dual supply chains – local and global

A request from a key customer at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to undertake a five-fold ramp up in the production of its ventilator hardware, led Shannon-based Bolgers to assess and overcome the potential challenges it faced in its component supply chain.

A significant scale-up of this level could have posed challenges for continuity of supply from its global suppliers, however, due to its vast experience of iterative cycles of growth, Bolgers rose to the challenge by building a capacity plan to support this five-fold increase in production.

This resulted in the recruitment, induction, and training of 30 new operatives, and increasing working capital to buy forward key input requirements to guarantee a resilient, steady, and reliable throughput of materials and product output.

Addressing a Shannon Chamber CEO grouping recently, Bolger’s director Ian Bolger said that while pandemics can be hugely disruptive, they can also create opportunities.

“It forced us to review our supply chain and to initiate a dual supply chain, local and global. This has proven extremely beneficial. The gap between sourcing from low-cost countries and Ireland has diminished and by having a dual system, we have brought predictability into our supply systems and not only have we increased our local and domestic sub-supply spend but we have also increased our growth and profitability.”

Bolger is keen to see more companies adopt this type of dual sub-supply system within their businesses. Given the initial supply concerns at the outset of the pandemic, it is important for companies, who themselves are sub-suppliers, to have a predictable supply chain.

This sentiment was also echoed by Modular Automation’s chief financial officer, Don Foynes. As an award-wining leader in the delivery of technologically advanced turnkey automation solutions globally, and with 500 suppliers in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Germany, Switzerland and the USA, Modular has to continually assess the risks inherent from its suppliers with regard to supply of raw materials, logistics and transport and other company-specific areas. As a supplier itself, Modular is also conscious that its customers also assess the company’s resilience as a supplier.

“When you consider that some of our products can have as many as 3,500 unique components and our products are customised, we cannot stock up on components. We need certainty of supply and quality from our suppliers and that’s why we have dual supply within many jurisdictions.

“We are currently looking at six new vendors and in doing so, we assess each supplier on their ability to do the work and on their lead times. Any impact on our schedule has a knock-on impact on our customer. Resilience in supply chains is now paramount; efficiency alone is no longer adequate,” added Foynes.

Hosting this event has prompted Shannon Chamber to encourage more Irish companies to source locally, where the supplier can successfully compete with a low-cost country source and guarantee sustainability in the supply chain.

“These events, which are part of a new member company CEO collaboration, are being organised to assess what more we, as a Chamber, can do to strengthen our industry base here in the Mid-West region.

“This region is renowned for its generosity of spirit with companies willing to share knowledge and experience to help others, and that’s our goal too,” she added.