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Global supply chains have faced disruptions before—shocks like 9/11, the devastating earthquake in Fukushima, Japan and its subsequent tsunami, marine piracy, trade wars—all have made us more aware of supply chain fragility. And while businesses have weathered these shocks (some with greater success than others), the COVID-19 pandemic feels categorically different: production has been halted, ports are being closed, workers are being laid off, and travel has been restricted, locally and globally.

In the past few weeks, supply chains have come under new scrutiny as ordinary people are asked to stay at home and “flatten the curve” to relieve pressure on overtaxed healthcare systems. “Supply chain management” might not yet be a household word, but we are all newly aware of potential shortages in critical supplies such as COVID-19 testing kits and PPE.

As countries continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain analysts are calling our attention to the risk inherent in current supply chain structures. An emphasis on ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing, while a more efficient practice, means that businesses are less able to respond to sudden demands. And while supply chains themselves are more extended and global, businesses often have little transparency into second or third-tier suppliers, which hampers them from understanding where problems might occur.

Forward-thinking business leaders are already thinking about how to build more resilient and agile supply chains—and visibility is key.

DuPont: Supply Chain Intelligence in Action

Case in point: With better visibility across a network of third-party manufacturers, DuPont has been able to expedite production and delivery of hazmat suits to deliver critical protections to healthcare workers battling the novel coronavirus. Speaking with NBC News, David Domnisch, DuPont’s global business director for PPE, credited the company’s “brand new, expedited” supply chain, powered in part by ACSIS cloud solutions. With better data from supplier networks spread across Southeast Asia, DuPont had the information they needed to make critical delivery decisions, in this case relying on air freight rather than ocean freight to meet soaring demand.

Supply chains managers who have adopted digital strategies have better insight into their data, improving their ability not just to forecast demand and optimize inventory, but to make critical decisions across the supply chain at just the right time for improved performance. That includes visibility into the full supply chain ecosystem, including those multi-tier suppliers who often hold key planning and execution data. With better data from their downstream suppliers, businesses know what is at risk and why. They can work proactively with their partner network to reduce risk, control inventory, and build capacity.