Supply Chain Risk Management: Definition, Examples, and Strategies

Supply Chain Risk Management: Definition, Examples, and Strategies

In an interconnected global economy, smooth supply chain operations are crucial to business success.

Yet, with myriad variables and dependencies, supply chains are exposed to many potential disruptions. 

Enter supply chain risk management. Supply chain risk management is a strategic approach to identify, assess, and mitigate risks in the supply chain, ensuring business continuity and competitive advantage.

What Is Supply Chain Risk Management?

Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) or supply chain management is a systematic process that involves identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks associated with a company’s supply chain. It includes implementing strategies designed to mitigate these risks, ensuring the continuity and profitability of the business. 

SCRM or supply chain management doesn’t just protect a company from unforeseen disruptions; it also provides an opportunity to enhance the supply chain‘s resilience and efficiency. With global supply chains becoming increasingly complex and integrated, the need for effective supply chain risk management has never been more pressing. 

Businesses implementing a robust SCRM system are better positioned to navigate challenges, protect shareholder value, and capitalize on opportunities in volatile markets.

Supply Chain Risk Management: Common Risk Factors

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of the supply chain, supply chain management, and supply chain risk management, we must understand the plethora of risks businesses may confront when dealing with the supply chain. 

These risk factors, stemming from internal and external sources, can cause significant supply chain disruption if not appropriately managed.

Internal Factors

To have a robust SCRM, it’s paramount first to recognize the internal risk factors inherent to a business’s supply chain. Here are some primary internal risk factors for a supply chain:

  • Operational Risks: These risks are associated with the day-to-day operations of a company. For example, machinery breakdowns, IT system failures, or labor disputes can disrupt the supply chain.
  • Financial Risks: Changes in exchange rates, liquidity problems, or issues in accessing capital can hinder a company’s ability to procure raw materials or pay suppliers in the supply chain on time.
  • Strategic Risks: These revolve around business decisions such as mergers, acquisitions, or entry into new markets, which might impact the supply chain.
  • Human Resource Risks: Employee turnovers, strikes, or lack of training can influence the supply chain’s performance.
  • Quality Risks: If there’s a compromise in the quality of products or raw materials, it can lead to recalls, reputation damage, and financial losses as pertains to the supply chain.

Real-life Examples of Internal Risk Factors:

  • Operational Risks: A notable instance is the 2011 Sony’s PlayStation Network outage. An IT system failure resulted in a 23-day-long outage, affecting millions of users worldwide that affected the supply chain.
  • Financial Risks: In the 2008 financial crisis, many businesses faced liquidity problems, leading to supply chain disruption in their supply chains as they struggled to maintain inventory and pay suppliers.
  • Strategic Risks: Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s device business in 2014 faced challenges integrating the supply chains of both companies, causing delays in product deliveries.
  • Human Resource Risks: The 2012 Marikana miners’ strike in South Africa halted platinum mining operations, impacting the global supply of platinum through the supply chain.
  • Quality Risks: In 2009, Toyota faced massive recalls due to vehicle quality issues, disrupting its supply chain and tarnishing its reputation.

External Factors

External factors play a significant role in influencing the performance of a supply chain. Beyond a company’s control, these factors necessitate vigilant monitoring and dynamic risk mitigation strategies to ensure smooth operations in a supply chain. 

Here are the main categories of external risks that could disrupt a business’s supply chain:

  • Geopolitical Risks: Political instabilities, trade wars, tariffs, and changing regulations can have dramatic impacts on supply chains, especially those that span multiple countries.
  • Environmental Risks: Natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or extreme weather events can severely disrupt manufacturing processes, transportation, and logistics.
  • Economic Risks: Economic downturns, fluctuations in demand, or volatile commodity prices can pose significant challenges to the supply chain.
  • Technological Risks: Rapid technological advancements can render existing products or processes obsolete. Moreover, cyber-attacks or IT system failures can compromise supply chain integrity.
  • Supplier Risks: Failures from a supplier’s side, whether due to financial instability, operational issues, or other supply chain disruption, can have cascading effects on the entire supply chain.

Real-life Examples of External Risk Factors

Geopolitical Risks: The US-China trade war in 2019 led to major supply chain disruptions as businesses had to re-evaluate their sourcing strategies to avoid tariffs.

Environmental Risks: The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused severe disruptions in the automotive and electronics industries, revealing vulnerabilities in global supply chains.

Economic Risks: The 2008 global financial crisis caused a ripple effect in many organizations, causing demand fluctuations and interrupting supply chain operations.

Technological Risks: The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 impacted many businesses, including Britain’s National Health Service, causing operational halts and loss of critical data.

Supplier Risks: The bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping in 2016 left its cargo stranded at sea, causing disruptions for businesses relying on their services.

Real-World Supply Chain Risk Examples

delivery man

Understanding the real-life implications of managing supply chain risks offers clarity on their magnitude and the importance of effective risk management strategies. 

Here, we will delve into specific examples to elucidate businesses’ potential challenges.

Shocks to Supply

Unforeseen events, such as factory fires or unplanned strikes, can cause supply shortages. For example, the 2017 fire at a supplier’s factory affected Ford’s F-150 production, revealing the fragility of supply chains.

Failure to Deliver

This can be due to transportation disruptions, logistical issues, or failure from a supplier’s side. An example is the 2014 West Coast port strike in the US, which caused extensive delays and affected operations of many businesses, from retail to automotive sectors.

Loss of Quality Assurance

This involves receiving subpar or defective products from suppliers. A classic instance is the 2007 scandal involving lead-tainted toys manufactured in China, which affected global retail giants and emphasized the importance of quality checks across supply chains.

General Shortages

A sudden spike in demand or production bottlenecks can cause these. The global silicon chip shortage, which started in 2020, is an example that impacted multiple industries, from consumer electronics to automotive, leading to production halts and increased lead times.

Poor Communication and Relationships with Suppliers

The success of a supply chain heavily relies on clear communication and strong vendor relationships. A breakdown in this aspect can lead to misunderstandings, misaligned priorities, and disruptions. For instance, Boeing’s Dreamliner faced delays due to miscommunication with multiple suppliers, leading to a cascade of issues in its production process.

Each of these examples underscores the multifaceted nature of managing supply chain risk and the necessity of comprehensive risk management strategies to address them effectively.

Strategies for Supply Chain Risk Management

Ensuring business continuity and competitive advantage amidst potential disruptions requires a proactive approach. 

Implementing comprehensive risk management strategies can enable businesses to anticipate, respond, and navigate supply chain challenges more effectively.

Risk Management Framework

A structured risk management framework is essential for a holistic approach to supply chain challenges. 

This framework entails identifying potential risks, assessing their impact, devising mitigation strategies, and consistently reviewing the measures. 

By utilizing such a framework, businesses can ensure they are prepared for predictable and unforeseen supply chain disruptions.

Cultivating a Risk Culture

Promoting a risk-aware culture within an organization ensures that every stakeholder, from top management to frontline workers, understands the importance of risk management.

This culture facilitates proactive identification of risks, swift decision-making during crises, and continuous learning from past disruptions. 

In essence, it ingrains the principles of risk management into the organization’s very fabric.

Enhancing Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility means having a clear view of every operation, transaction, and movement throughout the supply chain. 

Leveraging technologies like IoT, AI, and blockchain can provide real-time insights, enabling businesses to detect issues early, make informed decisions, and ensure more predictable and efficient operations.

Supplier Collaboration

Building strong relationships with suppliers is paramount. Regular communication, joint problem-solving sessions, and shared objectives can foster collaboration. 

By working closely with suppliers, businesses can gain insights into potential risk factors, develop mitigation strategies, and ensure that both parties are aligned in their goals and operations.

Steps For a Supply Chain Risk Management Process

A robust supply chain risk management process entails systematic steps to identify, assess, and mitigate potential challenges. Here’s a concise outline:

  • Risk Identification: Recognize potential internal and external risks affecting the supply chain.
  • Risk Assessment: Evaluate the impact and likelihood of identified risks, prioritizing them based on their potential consequences.
  • Risk Mitigation: Develop strategies and actions to reduce or eliminate the potential impact of prioritized risks.
  • Implementation: Put the devised strategies into action, ensuring alignment with overall business objectives.
  • Review and Update: Regularly reassess the risk environment, monitoring the effectiveness of implemented strategies and making necessary adjustments.

What Is the PPRR Risk Management Model?

The PPRR risk management model is a comprehensive Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery approach. 

It’s designed to provide a systematic way of understanding and addressing risks.

  • Prevention: Focuses on strategies to prevent or avoid the risk event from occurring. This could involve regular maintenance, safety checks, or changing suppliers.
  • Preparedness: Involves planning and organizing to ensure that when a risk event occurs, the organization is ready to handle it. This may include training, simulations, and resource allocation.
  • Response: Refers to the immediate actions taken during or immediately after a risk event to manage its impacts. This could involve crisis management teams, emergency protocols, or communication strategies.
  • Recovery: Concentrates on restoring normal operations after the event, learning from the incident, and implementing measures to prevent future occurrences.

Incorporating the PPRR model into the supply chain risk management process allows businesses to tackle risks from multiple angles, ensuring comprehensive protection and resilience.

What Are Other Supply Chain Risk Management Strategies?

Apart from the traditional measures and frameworks, there are several innovative strategies businesses can adopt to enhance their supply chain risk management:

Consolidating Data

By centralizing data from multiple sources, businesses can gain a holistic view of their supply chain. This enables better decision-making, forecasting, and early detection of potential disruptions.

Internal Training

Educating employees on managing supply chain risks and how to manage them can foster a proactive risk-aware culture within the organization.

Tracking Freight Metrics

Monitoring and analyzing key performance indicators, such as delivery times, cost metrics, and carrier performance, can provide insights into potential vulnerabilities and areas of improvement.

Diversification of Suppliers

Relying on a single supplier can be risky. Businesses should consider diversifying their supplier base, spreading the risk and reducing dependency on one entity.

Scenario Planning

Envisioning different risk scenarios and how to respond to them can prepare businesses for various eventualities.

Continuous Monitoring

Monitoring the supply chain, market trends, and geopolitical events can help businesses anticipate and respond to disruptions.

Invest in Technology

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced technologies can automate risk detection and offer predictive analytics.

Strengthen Vendor Relationships

Building strong, transparent relationships with vendors ensures better communication and faster problem resolution.

Inventory Management

Maintaining appropriate stock levels, considering factors like lead times and demand variability, can act as a buffer against supply chain disruptions.

Review and Feedback Loop

Implementing a system for regular reviews and feedback can help refine the risk management process over time.

Supply Chain Risk Management Software: Benefits and Drawbacks

Adopting supply chain risk management software can be a game-changer, but weighing the pros and cons is essential.


  • Integrated Data Management: Software solutions consolidate data from different supply chain segments, providing a unified view.
  • Real-time Monitoring: These tools offer real-time insights, helping businesses react promptly to disruptions.
  • Automated Alerts: Software can detect anomalies and automatically notify relevant stakeholders, ensuring timely interventions.
  • Predictive Analytics: Advanced software often uses AI to predict potential disruptions and offer prescriptive solutions.
  • Efficiency and Productivity: Automating several aspects of risk management can save time and reduce human errors.


  • Initial Cost: Investing in advanced software can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses.
  • Training and Implementation: Staff may require training, and the initial implementation phase can be time-consuming.
  • Over-reliance: Depending too heavily on software might lead to overlooking human intuition and judgment.
  • Software Limitations: No software can predict every risk, especially those stemming from unprecedented global events or human factors.
  • Maintenance and Updates: Software solutions require regular updates and maintenance, which could add to the operational costs.

Supply Chain Risk Management Tools

Beyond software, there are various tools that businesses can employ to manage and mitigate supply chain risks:

Risk Assessment Templates: Standardized templates can assist businesses in evaluating and prioritizing risks systematically.

Dashboards and Reporting Tools: Visual representations of data can help stakeholders quickly grasp the state of the supply chain and identify anomalies.

Supplier Scorecards: These evaluate and rank suppliers based on performance metrics, assisting businesses in making informed decisions about vendor relationships.

Simulation Models: Businesses can anticipate potential outcomes by simulating different scenarios and devise responsive strategies.

Decision Trees: These provide a structured approach to decision-making, considering various risk factors and their potential impacts.

Supply Chain Mapping: Visual maps of the entire supply chain can help pinpoint vulnerabilities and choke points.

Sensing Technologies: Tools like IoT sensors can monitor temperature, humidity, and other conditions critical to certain goods, ensuring product integrity.

Final Thoughts

Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) remains indispensable in today’s globalized business environment. 

As supply chains grow more intricate, the potential for disruptions also increases, underscoring the urgency for robust SCRM strategies. Through advanced software, practical tools, and continuous monitoring, businesses can navigate the complex waters of supply chain risks. 

Prioritizing proactive measures, diversification, and education ensures business continuity, resilience, and success in volatile markets.