Two weeks ago, joined Ilaria Maselli, Senior Economist at Conference Board, on a webinar to explore the impact of COVID-19 on global supply chains and what to expect nextThe discussion addressed the significant transformations that are underway regarding globalization and global supply chains. After decades of focus on just-in-time production and optimization, as well as increasing complexity, geographic dependencies, and insecurity, global supply chains became extremely fragile and lacked the resiliency to withstand such an unprecedented public health and economic shock. We explored the evolution of global supply chains, recommendations to increase resiliency, and what to expect during the transformation to a ‘new normal.’  

As part of the discussion, we posed three different questions to the audience to gauge a variety of perspectives on global supply chains and how they are preparing for an uncertain future. 

Question 1: How do you expect globalization to evolve when the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 shock? 

Many headlines fall into one of two views of the future: either globalization is dead or globalization will rebound. There also is a growing role of regionalism as well as a softer globalization with some localization. The audience overwhelmingly selected a softer globalization with localized supply chains. This is consistent with our own research that sees a combination of localized production, especially to overcome concentration risks and for greater autonomy, as well as continued, but strategic, global supply chains that will be much more influenced by government policies and relationships than was previously the case. 

Question 2: How many suppliers are in the global supply chain ecosystem of an average global brand?

When discussing supply chain complexity, the focus is often on the opaqueness of the supply chain, or on the hyper-specialization. Both directly contribute to supply chain complexity, but the sheer volume of suppliers is often underestimated.

Our second poll question sought to assess common perceptions about the size of a global brand’s supply chain ecosystem. Over half of respondents estimated the number in the thousands, which certainly would result in overly complex ecosystems. The actual number is closer to tens of thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands. Given this sheer size, it is no wonder greater transparency is needed, which in turn requires intuitive human-computer interaction to help make sense of this complexity. 

Question 3: How do you expect the supply chain strategy of your company to evolve?

After discussing the evolution of global supply chains, and the unprecedented nature of COVID-19’s economic and public health shock, we addressed the steps enterprises are taking to address the ongoing transformations. Over half of respondents selected increasing resilience as their top strategy shift in preparation of the new normal. Reducing dependency on China came in second.

As part of concentration risk, this shift also reflects a focus on greater resiliency, and is a leading topic among companies as they explore decoupling. Resiliency may well be the defining feature of the year given the widespread and profound disruptions, as organizations and individuals prepare for ongoing and future shocks.

Learn More about Preparing for New Normal

These survey questions are a great way to interact with the audience and uncover insights from the field that impact shifting supply chain strategies. If you’d like to watch the entire discussion, you can access the webinar here, or read our related white paper here.

Dr. Andrea Little Limbago is a computational social scientist specializing in the intersection of technology, national security, and society. As the Vice President of Research and Analysis at Interos, Andrea leads the company’s research and analytic work regarding global supply chain risk with a focus on governance, cyber, economic, and geopolitical factors. She also oversees community engagement and research partnerships with universities and think tanks and is a frequent contributor to program committees and mentorship and career coaching programs. She has presented extensively at a range of academic, government, and industry conferences such as RSA, SOCOM’s Global Synch, BSidesLV, SXSW, and Enigma. Her writing has been featured in numerous outlets, including Politico, the Hill, Business Insider, War on the Rocks, and Forbes. Andrea is also a Senior Fellow and Program Director for the Cyber and Emerging Technologies Law and Policy Program at the National Security Institute at George Mason and a Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center. She is an industry advisory board member for the data science program at George Washington University, and is a board member for the Washington, DC chapter of Women in Security and Privacy (WISP). She previously was the Chief Social Scientist at Virtru and Endgame. Prior to that, Andrea taught in academia and was a technical lead at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, where she earned the Command’s top award for technical excellence. Andrea earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA from Bowdoin College.