The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020, combined with the effects of Brexit and the ‘Ever-Given’ blockage in the Suez Canal, have all served to highlight the fragility of supply chains on a global scale, regardless of industry. Whilst COVID-19 has severely disrupted supply chains around the world, they have also been a vital lifeline to support the emergency response, keeping essential medical supplies, food, PPE and other necessities moving to where they’ve been, and continue to be, needed most.
However, manufacturers and suppliers are braced for further impact as the global shipping container shortage looks set to remain in crisis until well into 2022. Currently, more than 300 container ships around the globe remain at sea waiting for berths to become available, causing operational mayhem due to unprecedented port congestion and delayed customs clearance. The impact of these already over-stretched and inefficient bottlenecks is further compounded until the widely imposed COVID-safe working practices can finally be lifted. But when? With COVID still dominating the business continuity agenda, who knows?
So, what does all this mean for OSKA, particularly when its products and services are critical to the national COVID effort and supporting the ongoing crisis in social care? Alistair Wickland, MD at OSKA said, “As innovators in pressure care and infection control, we are really proud of our British heritage, manufacturing the majority of our products here in the UK. But sadly OSKA is not totally immune to these frustrating delays and disruptions to the global supply chain. The knock-on effect of waiting for electronic component parts or raw materials has caused some slippage for us, as well as increased costs, but in the main we are managing to keep on top of our supply and pricing. We’ve had our finger on the pulse for quite some time now, spurring us on to remain in close communication with our suppliers, be agile in our response times where we can, and reduce the risk of disruption to our clients. We are in no way unique to these challenges – to be absolutely clear, this is a worldwide issue affecting everyone.”
There is little doubt the shocks of the last 18 months have acted as a catalyst for change as businesses now plan for economic recovery post-COVID. There is much scope to harness the lessons learned, building a more agile and resilient manufacturing and supply chain operation.
Continuing, Alistair said, “In the last 12 months we have seen shipping costs increase by an astonishing 1000% which clearly is unsustainable in the longer term. The cycle of a lack of available containers, limited space on vessels, ships stranded at destination ports due to port congestion, increased turnaround times on vessels is affecting every industry sector the world over, with 75% of businesses reporting a negative or strongly negative impact on their supply chain. Ultimately freight prices are impacted, driving up costs further down the supply chain. Research suggests the crisis has already caused huge increases in shipping costs, with rates for a typical 40-foot container from China to the UK jumping from £2,000 in early 2020 to £14,500 in June 2021. The question is, how and should these eye-watering price hikes be passed on to the final customer?
“To help mitigate some of these risks and the potential impact, OSKA continues to work closely with all our raw material suppliers and shipping agents to stabilise costs as far as possible despite this global crisis continuing its hold. To illustrate, we work with some of the UK’s biggest care home groups who have ambitious and large-scale construction projects in progress. Despite the ongoing safety challenges caused by COVID and a shortage of raw construction materials increasingly causing construction sites to ‘mothball’ in the short-term, we have found the key to lessening the impact on their builds further down the supply chain is advanced and meticulous inventory planning with us. Ensuring visibility of their plans well in advance of implementation and deployment is crucial. Our Project Directors and Pressure Care Consultants are working incredibly closely with the design, build and procurement teams to identify, discuss and continually review their timelines and implementation expectations for their beds, pressure care mattresses, pressure care seating and furniture procurement.
“This is not a short-term crisis; we all find ourselves still in the eye of this storm and it will have long-lasting implications for how supply chains function and how businesses build their long-term resilience again. At OSKA we are fortunate to hold adequate stock levels in our warehouse, ensuring we can remain flexible, agile and responsive to our clients. To protect us against ongoing or future disruptions, we continue to focus on maintaining our essential operations, delivering excellence, and remaining ‘deliberately urgent’.
“We make thoughtful decisions quickly and execute with intensity, which we believe sets us apart in our care home, hospice, NHS and acute care settings.”
In summary, what does the future hold and how can businesses use this opportunity to reset their operations for optimum efficiency and effectiveness? From supplier to client, businesses need to ensure end-to-end transparency across their whole supply chain, integrating ‘risk response’ as an integral part of their business-as-usual protocols. Doing so will enable businesses to emerge stronger with supply chains that are more resilient to future disruptions.