Getting Indian Businesses Prepared for Restarting the Supply Chain During Lockdown 4.0

The latest MHA guidelines for enterprises to resume commercial activities during the ensuing period of lockdown 4.0 reflect the solutions required to resolve the local challenges posed by the Covid19 pandemic to India following “mass customization”. The roadmap to be adopted by enterprises for “walking off the seatbelt” must address the twin challenges of scale and diversity that are representative of the economic and geographic environments of India. Given the diversity in the rates of morbidity, mortality, and recovery across regions in the country it is evident that the opening up of the economy while being staggered shall also be localized and follow different timelines across regions and industry verticals in the economy. It is in view of these emerging realities that enterprises need to decode the revised MHA guidelines for resuming activity during the nationwide lockdown.

National Directives for Covid19 Management and Standard Operating Procedures: MHA Guidelines

The latest order for lockdown 4.0 retains the status quo of preceding orders during the last 60 days of the lockdown while devolving regulatory functions of the business to local authorities to assess health risks and resilience of the apparatus for civil administration. It mandates that disinfectants be used for regularly sanitizing: entrance gate of building and office, cafeteria and canteens, meeting room, conference halls, open areas, verandah, the entrance gate of sites, bunkers, portacabins, buildings, equipment and lifts, washrooms, toilets, sinks, water points, walls, and other surfaces. Further, it deems the sanitization of all vehicles, machinery entering the premises, and thermal screening for everyone entering and exiting the workplace as mandatory. The National Directives for Covid19 management mandates compliance with the following workplace safety measures:

  • It recommends that the practice of work from home be followed as much as possible.
  • It requires enterprises to ensure on the best effort basis that employees install the Aarogya Setu app on their personal devices for safety in the workplace.
  • It deems the wearing of masks as compulsory for people in public places and workplaces. 
  • It deems the making of adequate arrangements for temperature screening and hand sanitizers for people as compulsory. 
  • It deems as compulsory for organizations to sanitize workplaces between shifts. 
  • It deems as compulsory for organizations in manufacturing units to ensure frequent cleaning of common surfaces and makes handwashing mandatory. 

Reimagining the Solutions for Lockdown 4.0 from a Local Perspective

One of the major highlights of the extended period of lockdown 4.0 from the standpoint of supply chains is the approach to localization of challenges and solutions thereof. The latest order from the MHA for lockdown 4.0 clearly suggests that the delineation of red, green, and orange zones will now be decided by the respective state and UT governments. It also devolves decision-making powers for demarcation of buffer and containment zones to district-level authorities, while requiring them to operate within the guidelines of MoHFW. Enterprises that are looking to resume economic activity in the ensuing period are now required to take cognizance of the decentralization of the business regulatory framework and must look to engage with local authorities, local suppliers, and local communities of people.

Implications for Supply Chains and Workplaces of Enterprises Due to the Localized Approach

The new approach enshrined in the MHA order for lockdown 4.0 brings into focus the aspects of localization of supply chain practices and engagement with business and civil regulatory institutions at the district, state, and UT levels. 

Enterprises that are preparing to restart their supply chains thus need to be more aware of the evolving on-ground situation in states and UTs to understand the regulations on the mobility of people, materials, and multimodal logistics and thereafter map their availability for work across multiple locations in their supply chain. 

For enterprises that are multi plant operators, this requires them to adopt a new decentralized and bottom-up approach to planning, implementing, and monitoring supply chain operations in different locations across states and UTs in India. 

By implicit rationale, it also calls for enterprises in the manufacturing sector to take a fresh look at the upstream and downstream activities of their supply chain. Given the wide diversity in the rates of spread of the COVID19 pandemic across locations, it is prudent for enterprises to keep track of operations across every plant location separately.

The localized approach to lockdown 4.0 calls for a fresh mapping of suppliers against procurement requirements for each plant location. This shall, in turn, set the tone for mapping the available modes of hyperlocal transport, engaging with logistics service providers, planning the logistics routes and number of sorties required for each vehicle, and conducting a gap analysis of headcount of people for covering each touchpoint in the supply chain from the point of manufacturing to the points of distribution.

Social distancing norms for as long as they apply shall compel enterprises to operate at sub-optimal production levels thereby drastically cutting down gross value addition at multiple levels in the supply chain and a search for new models of costs. Owing to the different timelines of the opening up of regions across the country, a restructuring of the supply chain is bound to happen. Enterprises located in regions that are first to open up shall have the first-mover advantage, albeit in the short term. The resumption of economic activities in the regions that lead the race to reopen shall create a local demand for industrial supplies and local suppliers located in proximity to these enterprises shall be the first in line to secure these orders for raw materials, intermediate goods and class C items like packaging and MRO. In the short term, as long as all the regions in the country do not open up for the economic activity to resume, local supply chain ecosystems resembling the raisin-pudding model envisaged by the scientist JJ Thomson shall emerge. As long as logistics across adjacent states shall remain cut off, such local supply chain ecosystems may also increasingly witness opportunities for arbitrage and speculation, thereby affecting new pricing and revenue enablement models in the newly reopened regions. 

Building Supply Chain Capabilities for the Short Term and the Long Term

Given the new realities of supply chain restructuring that are about to emerge during lockdown 4.0 and beyond, enterprises need to start building capabilities now and look to scale best practices through a repetitive model to arrive at a new normal in the long term. Creating local supplier networks and investing in collaborative supplier relationships in local geographies shall be integral to restarting economic activity in the short term. Partnering with these new suppliers in the short term and moving towards strategic supplier relationships shall require new supply chain models driven by collation and analysis of data on key performance indicators of supplier performance. Agile collaboration with suppliers shall require switching to a digital workflow to fast track the PR-to-PO process. Most importantly it shall be necessary for enterprises to leverage cloud platforms to store such data and then apply sensing, processing, and learning capabilities of artificial intelligence to drill down their supplier networks to understand their supplier risk exposure better to stay insulated from supply shocks in future. A new normal shall eventually emerge from these altered ground realities.

The New Normal: Supply Chain Touchpoints Separated by Distance and Connected by Technology

The revised MHA guidelines for business enterprises while being effective for the ensuing period of the lockdown 4.0 are integral to the strategic evolution of the economic, geographical, and regulatory environments for business in India towards a more federal and localized supply chain design. There is a likelihood that enterprises may now have to work with a unique supply chain design composed of pools of resources, materials, and people within local jurisdictions and geographical footprints while being connected to each other in India and across the globe through high-end supply chain technology platforms and digital systems. 

The takeaways from the localized approach to the lockdown shall in the long term lead towards a trajectory whereby all functions of business shall pivot on gaining visibility into the next steps in the local supply chain, making their supply chains more granular and agile to respond to opportunities and risks in the local environment, designing low-touch processes to stay operational from remote locations and building capabilities to align local resources towards the next opportunities in the shortest turnaround time. The Covid19 pandemic has caught business enterprises unawares amidst a massive supply chain disruptions. The supply chains of the future shall be much more localized and technology-enabled to enable enterprises to insulate themselves from the risks posed by opaque supplier relationships, failures of long-distance logistics, and look to move closer to the point of consumption.